Let’s have a quick round-up, shall we?
This is a lie. There are in fact no “tax hikes” in the budget at all. The threshold for the higher rate of tax is increasing with inflation, ie in real terms it’s staying the same as it is now. Councils are being ALLOWED to raise Council Tax but not FORCED to.
But the Mail lying is a reflex action. What about the rest?
This is a lie. See above – high earners are NOT having their taxes increased. What the Herald calls “high earners”, incidentally, are the same people the Mail calls “middle income families”. The truth can be seen in the graph below.
Each of the vertical blue bars represents the same number of people. The area we’ve highlighted in dark grey contains the people in the 40% tax bracket. As we can see, 85% of people in the UK earn less than what the Mail regards as “middle income”. As we noted back in March, it’s a curious definition of the middle of anything.
This is a lie. The Scotsman joins the Herald, the Mail and the Express (see below) in pushing a line about Scots becoming the highest-taxed people in the UK, but it’s simply not possible to make that statement based solely on a small difference in a single income tax threshold.
Scots have, for example, enjoyed a Council Tax freeze for most of the last decade, making the average bill for a Band D property now £319 lower in Scotland than in England, which by itself almost exactly wipes out the “increase” in income tax.
And of course the advantage in Council Tax applies to everyone, not just the small percentage who pay the higher-rate income tax, so for Scotland as a whole taxation is almost certainly still significantly lower than the rest of the UK.
Establishing with any credibility which of the UK’s four constituent nations was in fact the highest-taxed would require a calculation far more complex and difficult than any media has bothered attempting (especially as Northern Ireland still uses a system of rates rather than Council Tax), but obviously the truth is no sort of reason to pass up an eye-catching headline claim.
This is a lie. The budget does NOT cut funding for local services. It takes some money away from councils, but it also takes some financial responsibility away from them. It’s effectively like your employer cutting your wages by £800 a month, but only because they’ve started paying your £900-a-month mortgage for you.
Don’t take our word for that – analysis by the independent Fraser Of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde concludes that the overall effect of the changes is “an increase of around £270m in the spending power of local authorities”.
You get the idea by now. Some other papers attempt slightly subtler approaches – the Guardian, for example, goes with a weaselly “SNP accused” headline to hide the fact that it knows perfectly well the accusation is a lie – but the themes are the same.
The inexplicable mystery of newspapers’ plummetting sales continues.