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Labour Pledges Tax Hike for Richest as U.K. Campaign Resumes

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(Bloomberg) — Britain’s Labour opposition pledged to raise income tax for the richest 5% of the population while freezing sales and national insurance levies, as it sought to make up ground on Prime Minister Theresa May after heavy losses in local elections on Thursday.

John McDonnell, Labour’s finance spokesman, will on Sunday set out his plans for the economy if his party wins the June 8 general election — an unlikely outcome given current opinion polls, and following local results that suggest May’s Conservatives are heading for a landslide victory. The Tories in turn pledged to overhaul mental health legislation.

Labour promised not to increase income tax for those earning less than 80,000 pounds ($104,000) a year, the party said in an emailed statement. While it didn’t give details of how much taxes would increase for those earning more, it pledged to use the money raised to improve public services.

(Related on ThinkAdvisor: Health Service Plans Poorly, Raising Costs, U.K. Lawmakers Say)

“The Labour Party is now the party of low taxes for middle and low earners, while the Tories are the party of tax handouts for the super-rich and big corporations,” McDonnell will say in a speech, according to extracts released by his office. “Only the Labour Party is promising to stand up for working people, the majority in our country, while the Tories have made clear they are determined to carry on handing out tax giveaways to a wealthy few.”

Thursday’s results suggest May will significantly increase her majority in the House of Commons next month, a result she says would strengthen her hand in negotiations for Britain’s divorce from the European Union. Labour has been criticized for failing to provide a viable opposition to the Conservatives, both over Brexit and economic policy.

Police Detention

The Tories promised to reform the 1983 Mental Health Act to cut the number of people being detained in police cells as a result of the legislation, and pledged to train and hire 10,000 more mental health workers. Equalities legislation would also be updated to protect mentally ill people from discrimination at work, the party said.

“On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our country,” May said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear to me that the discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago is a key part of the reason for this.”

The 1983 law, introduced under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is “outdated and unfit for purpose,” May’s office said in an email. There’s been a 43% increase in the number of people detained, harming vulnerable patients and impeding their recovery, the party said.

The Liberal Democrats, seeking to claw back into contention after being all but wiped out in the 2015 general election, said they would continue to guarantee increases in state payments to retirees by whichever is higher of earnings, inflation, or 2.5%. May has hinted she’ll adjust the terms of the so-called “triple-lock” if she’s re-elected.

“A Lib Dem Pensions Minister introduced the triple lock guarantee to protect the state pension during Coalition,” former cabinet minister Vince Cable said, referring to the first administration of May’s predecessor David Cameron, in which the Liberal Democrats were the junior partner. “We believe that an important test of a civilized society is the way in which it cares for the elderly. We will protect the Triple Lock, unlike the Conservatives.”

— Read How Britain’s NHS Is Killing Digital-Health Startups on ThinkAdvisor.


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