Alok Sharma's Westminster Diary: April 19 2012

Published: 19 Apr 2012 09:292 comments

AFTER the Easter recess the latest Finance Bill, containing many of the measures announced in the Budget, has begun making its way through the House of Commons.

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Much of the continuing focus in the media has been on changes to personal taxation; 24 million tax payers will see their income tax cut, with a record rise in personal allowances, and two million people will be taken out of paying any income tax at all, which is very welcome.

There has also been a lot of attention surrounding the move to a simpler, single personal allowance with age-related allowances frozen at 2012-13 levels until they align with the personal allowance. Despite what some are implying, there will be no cash losers as a result of these changes.

Half of all pensioners will not be affected because they do not pay income tax anyway. It will lead to a significant simplification in the system, which ultimately will mean another 150,000 pensioners no longer have to fill in self-assessment forms.

Labour has predictably been posturing on age-related allowances. Which is a bit rich coming from a party which once gave pensioners an insulting 75p increase.

By contrast, the Conservative-led government has delivered the biggest cash rise in the basic state pension since 1948 and maintained, despite Labour's General Election scaremongering, free eye tests, free prescriptions, free bus passes, free TV licences for over-75s and winter fuel payments.

We have an excellent set of candidates for the Reading Borough elections.

After four years as a councillor, Emma Warman is a real local champion for Kentwood. Rob Vickers is an excellent Tilehurst choice and, if elected, will join wife Sandra as a strong voice for the area.

Superb Alanzo Seville has worked hard in Minster over the past year as a local campaigner, and governor of Reading's first free school.

Hardworking Imraan Ishtiaq also stood in Battle ward last year and, with Ali Asghar in Southcote, Michael Fairfax in Norcot and Nick Brown in Whitley, they all make up a strong Conservative team.

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