David Jones and Andrew RT Davies with the Prime Minister in April 2013

Taxing times for the Tories

Differences of opinion have resurfaced between Welsh Conservative Assembly Members and between their leader and the Welsh Secretary

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Labour's 'more bull than beef' jibe at Tory stamp duty pledge

by Adrian Masters

Not surprisingly, Welsh Labour has seized on the Treasury's refusal to cut stamp duty to attack the Welsh Conservatives. You can read what the Treasury said by clicking here.

It's important to note that what the Treasury rejected was the idea of a UK-wide cut to the tax before 2015 whereas the Welsh Tories' pledge is to abolish it for houses up to the value of £250,000 in Wales once control is transferred to the Welsh Government. Read more about their proposals here.

But this is politics and if the original pledge is all about sending a low-tax, aspirational message to voters, the response is equally about portraying the Welsh Conservatives negatively. Here's what Labour AM Ann Jones says:

The one day wonders of Welsh politics have been caught out again. First it was a return to 1950s grammar schools, then massive tax cuts for the rich, and now an uncosted proposal for cutting stamp duty. This latest wheeze has immediately been rejected by the Tory controlled Treasury in London. The average life expectancy of a Welsh Conservative policy proposal has now dipped below 24hrs.

Rather than offer serious policies to take Wales forward the Welsh Tories have been caught out chasing empty headlines. Andrew RT Davies may describe himself as ’19 stone of prime Welsh beef’ but we're seeing a lot more bull than beef at the moment.

– Ann Jones AM, Labour

Treasury rejects stamp duty cut

by Adrian Masters

The Treasury has rejected calls to cut stamp duty, saying it would be too expensive. It follows a pledge by the Welsh Conservatives to abolish the tax on properties in Wales valued up to £250,000 when control over the tax is transferred to the Welsh Government.

In response to that pledge, Welsh Government sources had challenged the Conservatives to use their influence with colleagues in Westminster to introduce the change immediately rather than wait for it to be devolved.

As with their costly proposals on income tax, if the Tories are in favour of cutting stamp duty, the UK Government has the power to do this across the UK now. Why wait?

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Now the Treasury has responded to that challenge with a clear refusal.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a progressive tax; almost 40% of house purchases do not are not liable for it at all and another 40% are liable for less than £2,500. However, SDLT is an important source of Government revenue, raising several billion pounds each year to help pay for the essential services the Government provides and supports. Abolishing SDLT for properties below £250,000 would create a significant cost to the Exchequer at a time when the Government is focused on reducing the deficit.

– Treasury spokesperson

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Welsh Government slams 'costly' Tory stamp duty pledge

The Welsh Government has criticised the Conservatives for their pledge to cut stamp duty on houses costing up to £250,000. Click here for details of the Tory proposal.

A spokesperson for the Finance Minister said:

As with their costly proposals on income tax, if the Tories are in favour of cutting stamp duty, the UK Government has the power to do this across the UK now. Why wait?

Abolishing stamp duty on residential properties worth up to £250k would cost some £25m per year, based on the recent subdued market. This figure is likely to cost considerably more in the future as the housing market picks up. If this is added to the loss of around £200m per year from the Conservatives plans to cut income tax by a penny the Welsh Government would be £225m a year worse off. This begs the question what would be cut to compensate for that significant sum?

As a responsible Government we have already started to consult with the housing industry to get their views on the best way to take stamp duty forward in Wales. When we have fully costed and developed plans for stamp duty we will put forward our proposals.

– Spokesperson for Welsh Finance Minister

Stamp duty call is message to 'strivers'

by Adrian Masters

A lot will have to change before the Welsh Conservatives' latest pledge to cut a tax could become a reality. The Welsh Government doesn't yet have control over stamp duty but it is expected to get that power as a result of the UK Government's draft Wales bill which is being considered by MPs.

It also won't be news to the Tories that they're unlikely to form a Welsh Government after 2016 so why make this promise? It's all about sending a message to voters: that they have ideas about how to use expected new powers to deliver lower taxes and to encourage aspiration and entrepreneurship.

They'll be accused of favouring wealthier voters but they believe the message will resonate with 'strivers' who don't count themselves as well-off. That was the reason for previous pledge to cut the 40% tax rate. However, they'll hope this call won't lead to the sort of internal row that one has.

End stamp duty to reverse brain drain say Tories

Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies says abolishing stamp duty for people buying houses worth up to £250,000 would 'send a message to the strivers' that 'they can be better off in Wales.'

In an article due to be published in the Daily Mail tomorrow, he's expected to say that cutting the tax 'could begin to reverse' a 'brain drain.'

Last week, a leading report showed significant evidence of ‘brain drain’ to London and the South East, with clear routes from all parts of the UK. Nowhere was the route more trodden than between Wales andLondon. We all know that the UK faces huge challenges in counter-balancing the huge pull of London, yet in the case of Wales very few actually return.

This requires radical policy and I believe that by sounding the horn of low tax, Wales could begin to reverse this decline. Becoming a place where people believe enterprise thrives and is actively supported. I believe the Welsh Conservatives are the only party to do that.

What an abolition of stamp duty would do is send a message to the strivers and the ambitious that they can be better off in Wales. It won’t solve all problems, but nor do I pretend it will. Sometimes in politics, small changes can make very big differences.

– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition

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Tories pledge to abolish stamp duty in Wales

The Welsh Conservatives say they'd help homebuyers by abolishing stamp duty on houses in Wales costing up to £250,000. Currently if you buy a house costing between £125,000 and £250,000 you pay 1% of that value in stamp duty land tax. The Tories say that costs the average homebuyer around £1,600.

At the moment people pay the same rates of the tax across the UK but control is expected to be transferred to the Welsh Government within the next few years as a result of the UK Government's draft Wales Bill which is being discussed by MPs.

Scrapping stamp duty would cost a future Welsh Government between £18-20m a year but would boost the economy as well as helping homebuyers. In an article due to be published by the Daily Mail tomorrow, Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies says,

What an abolition of stamp duty would do is send a message to the stivers and the ambitious that they can be better off in Wales. It won’t solve all problems, but nor do I pretend it will. Sometimes in politics, small changes can make very big differences.

– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition

More action needed on councils' top salaries say Tories

The Shadow Local Government Minister has said that the Welsh Government's crackdown on pay for council chief executives doesn't go far enough.

Recent scandals surrounding the remuneration of some of the highest earners in Welsh local authorities make clear the urgent need for a full review of levels of senior council pay. Whilst I recognise these tiny steps towards greater clarity in setting executive pay levels, they fall far short of the full transparency and accountability that hardworking council taxpayers deserve.

– Shadow Local Government Minister Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Welsh Tories call for more rights for whistleblowers

The Welsh Conservatives say they'll try to alter a new law in order to give whistleblowers more protection. They're hoping to amend the Social Services Bill to protect the rights of those who work in social services to raise concerns about standards where they work.

Shadow Social Services minister, William Graham, said

It is vital that workers who wish to raise concerns about illegality, wrongdoing or any potential risk to the public, have the right to raise those fears with complete protection.

Enshrining the rights of whistleblowers in law will encourage greater openness and transparency and could help drive up standards in care homes and other caring environments.

Setting up a formal whistleblowing procedure in any organisation strengthens governance and helps senior staff to manage and reduce potential risks.

This important amendment would give workers the confidence to raise concerns without fear of intimidation or reprisals.

A clear channel for whistleblowers is critical in exposing poor standards of care and protecting vulnerable people and I hope this important change will receive cross party support.

– William Graham AM, Welsh Conservatives
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