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Election candidate imposed on Wales deleted posts that conflict with Labour policy

03 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Torsten Bell campaigning in Swansea

Martin Shipton

A think tank director who has been parachuted into a Welsh constituency as its Labour candidate has deleted social media posts from 2023 that conflict with the party’s current policies.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, which specialises in research on social inequality, was imposed on Swansea West last week. Ordinary party members have complained that they were not given the opportunity to vote in the selection, with Labour officials loyal to Keir Starmer ensuring that Mr Bell won the candidacy in the safe seat.

It has emerged that since he was selected for Swansea West, a series of social media posts he made in January 2023 have been deleted. The posts coincided with the publication of a report by the Resolution Foundation that criticised tax breaks given to those who invest in Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs).

ISAs

Currently, ISAs allow individuals to save up to £20,000 per year tax-free, with no upper savings limit.

Mr Bell wrote a series of posts at the time of the report, including one that stated: “The problem with ISAs: they do work for the top. Evidence: 1.5m people live in families with ISAs worth over £100,000 per adult! Why on earth is the state spending billions subsidising savings that large?” It was deleted last week.

Another post, also deleted, said: “Our main policy to support saving does nothing for many on low/middle incomes – which is where the public policy priority to encourage saving lies – while doing a lot for the top who I promise you are going to save anyway. We should sort it out.”

Mr Bell’s deletion of the posts calls into question whether he stands by his quoted comments now that he is a Labour candidate.

Tax concessions

The Resolution Foundation report he based his posts on – Assessing the Government’s policies to encourage household saving – strongly criticised the tax concessions given to those with high value ISAs. The introduction to the report stated: “The cost of living crisis highlights the long-standing issue of there being too many UK families with too little in savings. This is not a reflection of policy neglect: there have been many schemes over recent decades to encourage families to save more, covering both measures which cut taxes on savings returns and those which provide direct bonuses for savers.

“However, little attention has been paid to who does – and does not – benefit from the current schemes. This briefing note fills that gap by looking at existing government policy to encourage saving and uses this evidence to outline recommendations that could improve levels of saving and financial resilience particularly among low-income individuals.”

The report’s key findings included:

* The UK has had a persistently lower level of saving over time by international standards. Since 1980, it has had the lowest saving rate of any G7 country in four of every five years.

* We estimate that the total support for savings from the Government is set to hit around £7.0bn per year by the end of 2023-24 in terms of foregone tax revenue and direct payments to households as interest rates rise.

* Despite tax-free savings allowances have been designed to be progressive, 41% of the £1.3bn of foregone tax revenue goes to the richest tenth of households.

* The advantages of tax-free savings from ISAs flow mostly to the already-wealthy. For example, for working-age adults, around £3 in every £10 saved in ISAs (29%) are held by those in the top income decile.

* Help to Save – where people are able to save up to £50 a month and receive a 50% top-up from government – is targeted at low-income families as eligibility is determined by benefit receipt. But while satisfaction with the scheme is high (only 3% of people report being dissatisfied with it), take-up is low, with under one-in-ten eligible participants using it.

* Taken together the richest tenth of households are set to gain just under £800 on average from these savings support next year, around 20 times the gains received by the poorest tenth of households (£38).

Help to Save

The report recommended that Help to Save, which was estimated to cost just £43m, should be extended beyond 2023, expanded by auto-enrolling benefit claimants into the scheme, doubling the monthly savings cap to £100, excluding the scheme from the savings rules in Universal Credit, and operate under a wider set of eligibility criteria in order to allow more low-income individuals to benefit from supported savings. It said the extension and widening of Help to Save could be paid for by reducing the generosity of ISAs. Capping the total amount of ISAs savings that are tax-free at £100,000 would affect 1.5 million people and raise around £1bn per year.

However, Labour has not committed to the report’s recommendations, and is likely to have seen the endorsement of them by a Labour candidate as unacceptable.

Commenting on Mr Bell’s decision to delete his social media posts, a Plaid Cymru spokesperson said: “Labour candidates imposed on Welsh constituencies from central office were deleting posts before they even had time to remember their new postcode.

“Keir Starmer is either dictating terms or candidates are rolling back on their politics – it’s likely that both could be true.

“Labour mustn’t be allowed to take Wales and its voters for granted. Labour supporters who feel their voice is being lost within the party and who believe in candidates who are of the same opinion before and after being selected can vote Plaid Cymru on July 4..”


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Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
5 days ago

Candidates should have lived in the constituency for a number of years prior to being eligible to run for Parliament.
Political donations should only be acceptable from registered voters (not companies), who live within the constituency.
All donations should be capped so one person cannot buy the MP / MS.
Central parties should not have a say on who locals choose to represent them.

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul ap Gareth

I would agree with these sort of restrictions, remember that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was allowed his first stab at becoming an MP in Clwyd South in 1997 and knew nothing about the area.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul ap Gareth

What you have proposed should absolutely be the requirements and it should be the case in law, which is the stumbling block. The very people a law like this would apply to are the very same people that make the laws, they are never† going to bring in any laws that reduce their power, they will have to be forced to do so!

† There was one MP that probably would have proposed this sort of thing had he become prime minister but the uk chose the compulsive liar (twice)!

John Ellis
John Ellis
5 days ago

The photograph looks as if it was taken just beneath the fringes of Townhill. I wonder just how well this very English and very metropolitan guy and the ordinary folk of Townhill and Mayhill will be able to understand one another!

Richard
Richard
5 days ago

We should welcome these new parachuded lab candidates 👋🏽. Durring their brief stay with us on their to the “ Lords “ they have a a chance to show we “ natives “ how things are done .

Alice Lander
Alice Lander
4 minutes ago

Another socialist lie saying the gov subsidies saving, it is not spending any money on subsidies it just doesn’t collect any tax on any interest earned. Most people once retired spends that saved tax money in the economy whereas the Wefminster Government would just waste it.

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