Tuesday 30 June 2009

What not to spend - on Newsnight tonight

Fabian research director Tim Horton braves the Newsnight politics pen tonight on the Dragons' Den set.

Tim's proposal is to freeze the threshold before any inheritance tax is payable at the current level of £325,000 (for single adults). It is twice that for married couples.

You can see a preview of Tim's pitch here - and find out what the political animals Digby Jones, Deborah Mattinson, Greg Dyke and Matthew Taylor made of it on Newsnight tonight.

That would save money on current government plans, because the allowances would not be uprated further in the spending squeeze. (There have been some considerable increases in the nil rate threshold, which has risen £40,000 since 2006 -7; I will supply Tim's projected cost savings in the comments tomorrow). It would offer a chance for the Conservative opposition to save a couple of billions more given their current more generous policy to raise the threshold to £1 million.

Last week's first instalment was interesting, with Andrew Haldenby of Reform failing to ditch universalism by means-testing the middle classes out of child benefit and much else. While Gillian Tett of the FT couldn't get a blanket 10% cut in quango spending, because the animals felt her populist call was not backed up by analysis of what cuts could be made, feeling the figures conflated quango bureaucracy with the functions being carried out.

ID cards got the chop though from Freddie Forsyth, though Matthew Taylor was sceptical about how much would be saved.

It suggested that making cuts in the detail is much tougher than talking about doing so in the abstract. It seems a very effective method to engage public audiences in the real politics of so-called 'tough choices'.

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