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Keir Starmer will not ‘write future budgets’ amid questions over tax rises

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about future changes to council tax, as he took questions on LBC radio (Aaron Chown/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about future changes to council tax, as he took questions on LBC radio (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer would not rule out changes to council tax rates in his plans for government, as the Conservatives stepped up their demands for Labour to rule out tax rises.

The Labour leader said he would not “write the budgets for the next five years”, when asked about changes to council tax.

His party has already ruled out taxes on so-called “working people”, including VAT, income tax, and national insurance.

General Election campaign 2024
Sir Keir Starmer insisted on LBC’s Nick Ferrari At Breakfast show that Labour has no plans to raise taxes outside those it has already specified (Aaron Chown/PA)

Labour plans to remove the VAT exemption for private schools to pay for 6,500 more state sector teachers, and to close tax loopholes for high-earning non-domiciled UK residents in order to provide more cash for other public services.

The Conservatives have sought to suggest Labour could raise certain taxes, pointing to a lack of detail in their rivals’ manifesto on an exemption from inheritance tax for farmers and the need for councils to hold a referendum on an increase in local taxes.

Facing an LBC radio call-in, Sir Keir continued to insist Labour has no plans to raise taxes outside those it has already specified.

“None of our plans require tax rises over and above the ones we have set out,” he said.

Pressed on whether this would include a council tax band revaluation, he said: “What I am not going to do is sit here two-and-a-bit weeks before the election and write the budgets for the next five years.

“What I can say is that none of our plans require a tax rise, and that is for a reason, and the reason is our focus in getting our economy going, on building, on growing, on raising living standards, on creating wealth.”

Asked what he meant when he said he would not raise taxes for “working people”, Sir Keir said: “The person I have in my mind when I say working people is people who earn their living, rely on our services, and don’t really have the ability to write a cheque when they get into trouble.”

Graph showing the polling average of the main parties from February 18 to June 18
(PA Graphics)

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds had earlier suggested to ITV’s Good Morning Britain that Labour would not need to revaluate council tax, following similar assurances by shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth on Monday.

Sir Keir was also taken to task over his party’s plans to remove the VAT exemption for private schools.

Michelle Catterson, head of Moon Hall School in Reigate, which caters for dyslexic children, told the radio station she thinks the policy means Labour does not care about youngsters with special needs, after warning that many of her pupils without education, health and care plans would be forced into the state sector.

Sir Keir replied: “Well, Michelle, we do care. I want every single child, whether they go to private or state school, to have the same opportunities. It really matters to me.”

He said Labour’s policy would provide an exemption for children who have a plan in place and cannot get the help they need in the state sector.

Conservative farming minister Sir Mark Spencer had earlier suggested Labour has not ruled out inheritance tax changes for farmers.

Mark Spencer honoured
Conservative farming minister Sir Mark Spencer suggested Labour has not ruled out inheritance tax changes for farmers (Aaron Chown/PA)

He also insisted the Tories are not actively pursuing a strategy of damage limitation in the election, following suggestions from his colleague, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, that the Tories are unlikely to win the election.

Asked by Times Radio whether his party is pursuing such a strategy, Sir Mark said: “No-one has ever told me to take that line at all. That certainly is not something that I would be comfortable with. I want to fight for every single vote.”

Asked if the Conservatives are still in it to win it, he replied: “Yeah, absolutely. Of course we are.”

Sir Mark also insisted it is Rishi Sunak, not former prime minister Boris Johnson, who is moving the Tories forward, despite praising his old boss as “fantastic”.

It came after the Telegraph reported that some Conservatives have turned to Mr Johnson in a bid to counter Reform UK, with the former premier writing letters in a direct appeal to voters not to support the party’s electoral rivals.

While Mr Johnson may be making a contribution to the campaign, he is currently on holiday in Sardinia, according to his wife Carrie’s Instagram account.