Labour has performed a U-turn on personal allowances. Rishi Sunak announced in his Budget last week that the personal allowance threshold would freeze until 2026, effectively delivering a ‘stealth’ tax rise. Anneliese Dodds said on Thursday that Labour would not be opposing the freeze, but this left the Labour leadership with an awkward stance on tax – defending in the immediate term the low rate of corporation tax while supporting a move that will see 1.3 million people on the very lowest incomes paying income tax. But the party has now reversed its position; Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Ashworth confirmed on the Sunday politics shows that Labour now opposes the freeze and will vote against it.
It is back to school for many children in England today. Primary-age pupils go back, while a staggered reopening is taking place for secondary schools to make sure testing can take place. Children are being offered three tests on their return and parents will then be given two tests a week to be carried out at home. Mask wearing is proving most controversial among the new measures to stop the spread of the virus. The benefit of wearing a mask is difficult to quantify but SAGE has said it has a “small but significant” impact on transmission. The policy of recommending face coverings in certain circumstances in secondary schools is set to be reviewed at Easter.
Labour is calling on the government to introduce catch-up breakfast clubs to help students recover from the impact of Covid. Analysis from the party shows that children have lost an average of 109 days of in-person learning during the crisis and Labour has highlighted evidence showing that breakfast clubs can boost children’s educational attainment. Keir Starmer and Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green are making the demand while visiting a school in East London this morning, where they will also announce the launch of a new ‘Bright Future’ taskforce to develop a national strategy for children’s recovery.
It is International Women’s Day today and Labour has revealed that 76% of workers affected by the NHS pay cut are women. A move from the Tories capping a year in which women have repeatedly been disproportionately impacted by Covid, from being more likely to be furloughed and lose a job to doing the majority of caring and homeschooling. “The Chancellor has chosen to turn his back on women who have experienced the worst economic and social impacts of the pandemic,” Shadow Women and Equalities Secretar Marsha de Cordova said. “To give women on the NHS front lines a pay cut is just another example of how badly Boris Johnson’s government has consistently failed women.”
Shadow ministers Preet Gill and Yasmin Qureshi have marked the day with the launch of a consultation to “build a transformative international development policy that takes us forward towards a more gender equal world”. Read their piece here. Also on LabourList this morning, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh has tells readers that we cannot shy away from the problems facing women in Northern Ireland, where the rate of murder by a partner is among the highest in Europe and double the figure in England and Wales. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.