'Full marks' to Tories' Andy Coulson for timing of child benefit announcement

Conservative spin doctor Andy Coulson should get 'top marks' for timing announcements about child benefit cuts with the start of the Tory party conference.

Chancellor: George Osborne
Chancellor: George Osborne

That was the message from former Sun political editor George Pascoe-Watson as Chancellor George Osborne announced child benefit was to be axed for higher rate taxpayers.

The move, which takes effect from 2013, will save around £1bn.

Coulson, who is facing new accusations about his role in the News Of The World phone hacking scandal on Channel Four's Dispatches programme tonight, was praised by Pascoe-Watson, now a partner at Portland PR.

He said: 'Full marks to the Andy Coulson media operation.

'The Tory conference carries one message; the nation must pull together to get us out of the trouble Labour put us in.

'This policy decision ends a nonsense which cannot be defended, saves money and sets the tone, not just for this conference, but for the coming Spending Review.

'It also shows action, not dither.There is only one time when a government can perform truly radical surgery. It is now and the nation expects it.'

Mark Pack, director at Mandate, said: 'I think this has been nicely timed – one of the things about the Labour conference was that there was so little policy news or proposals that the coverage was dominated by the two Milliband brothers.

'I think it sends out a clear signal that the Government can cut without creating administration, and without affecting those who need money the most.'

Osborne said: 'It's a big decision for us, but we think it's absolutely necessary and fair given the financial situation we face.'

Any couples where one parent earns about £44,000 – roughly the 40% tax level – and above will be affected.

Currently child benefit is paid to all families with children, costing about £12 billion a year.
Ministers estimate the change will affect about 1.2 million families – 15% of the total number.

Osborne said: 'It's very hard to justify taxing people on much lower incomes in order to pay the child benefit to some of the better off in our society.'

He confirmed the cut would hit homes with a single or two high earners. But families with two parents on incomes up to £44,000 – which might add up together to over £80,000 – will keep the benefit.

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