Osborne ups the ante in job tax stand-off

SHADOW chancellor George Osborne yesterday stepped up his attack on the government over plans to hike national insurance contributions (NICs), claiming the “job tax” would be the fastest way to reverse the budding economic recovery.

George Osborne also insisted that the Tories have no plans for further tax rises, despite repeated claims from Labour that the party are planning a hike in Vat.

Osborne last week promised to raise the threshold at which the NIC hike comes into effect, meaning those earning between £7,100 and £45,400 will be up to £150 better off. His plans have met with a flurry of support from the business world, with 23 top business people, including Marks and Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose and easyGroup founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, throwing their weight behind the move last week.

Unveiling a new poster campaign designed to capitalise on popular support for the move yesterday, Osborne said National Insurance had become “Labour’s favourite stealth tax”, with total receipts soaring more than five times faster than income tax receipts over the last decade.

“With Gordon Brown now finally forced to call the election, the choice is clear,” Osborne said. “Labour’s jobs tax and debt will stamp out the green shoots and kill the recovery. Conservative plans to cut wasteful government spending and stop the jobs tax will get Britain working.”

The campaign comes as Gordon Brown is today set to go to Buckingham Palace to seek a dissolution of Parliament, confirming the election date as 6 May.

Chancellor Alistair Darling yesterday vehemently defended his NIC proposals, claiming that employment would benefit as a result. He said: “The last time NI went up was in 2002... employment after that went up. Why? Because the economy was growing after that. If you look at what we are doing in terms of supporting the economy and the other measures to help businesses and so on, we believe that employment is going to start to grow.”