Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We'll Cut Civil Service and Tax, Says Howard; NEW TORY LEADER CEMENTS GRIP ON PARTY WITH FIRST RAFT OF POLICIES

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We'll Cut Civil Service and Tax, Says Howard; NEW TORY LEADER CEMENTS GRIP ON PARTY WITH FIRST RAFT OF POLICIES

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLES REISS

MICHAEL HOWARD today opened the door to tax cuts under the Tories - and he said the money would be found by cutting thousands of civil servants and by sweeping reforms to public services.

The declaration from the incoming Conservative leader set the battleground for the next general election - and guarantees a massive Labour counterattack.

Mr Howard, writes in today's Daily Mail that there is now "a basic choice" for the country to make: "We can continue in a spiral of decline with taxes going ever upwards to pour ever more money into wrongly structured services or we can radically reform public services by making them accountable to their users rather than to bureaucrats."

That pressure, Mr Howard says, would make the public services more efficient and "get a bigger bang for the taxpayers' buck".

It would also allow a big reduction in the number of bureaucrats, increased by the Government by 27,000 last year alone. Labour is certain to pounce on the manifesto for change with charges that the Tories are lining up huge cuts in key services to bring taxes down.

But Mr Howard warns: "I am not going to make any rash tax promises at this stage." And he acknowledges: "The public are not interested in having lower taxes if that means poorer services."

Mr Howard avoids putting any figures on his tax pledges. In carefully chosen words he writes of his aim to "reduce the need for ever-increasing taxes".

However, he leaves no doubt of his ultimate objective as he declares: "I genuinely believe that fundamentally reformed public services are the key to a permanently low-tax economy."

Mr Howard admits that the many attempts by successive governments to cut waste have failed. "Left to politiciansand bureaucrats, there will always be pressures to ratchet up the level of control once again. …

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