The consensus to be drawn from this morning’s newspaper editorials responding to yesterday’s announcement from David Cameron of tax cuts for firms which take on those who have been unemployed for three months is that the party is not being ambitious enough.
"The plan to give a tax break to companies taking on unemployed people is excessively complex, does not put money into people’s pockets – surely the priority in a downturn – and is far too modest in its scope. Costing £2.6 billion, just half of one per cent of the total tax take, it would barely be noticed."
The paper’s columnist, Simon Heffer, is even more scathing, declaring that "it is hard to come to terms with the sheer stupidity of this wheeze".
The Financial Times also states that the Tories have not gone far enough:
"The case for fiscal action is getting stronger. Although the opposition Conservatives show they understand the need for a plan to repair the public finances, their short-term proposals for dealing with the downturn are paltry. Should the government go ahead with a fiscal stimulus at the pre-Budget report, expected this month, it must do better."
Even the Guardian reckons the party’s response to be "too small"
"Given the bleakness of the economic outlook, a £2.6bn tax relief is as much use as a rubber ring in the middle of a gale. Few of the modest measures the Tories have produced so far have made much impact on the public. A poll yesterday suggested that, while Labour remains behind overall, most voters think that Gordon Brown is the best man to tackle the recession. The Conservatives want to drum home the message that they alone can restore order to the books, but so far that message seems not to be resonating."
The Times cites the merit of the Tory plan as being the fact that it would be funded by welfare savings, but nonetheless makes a call for "targeted, temporary tax cuts, implemented now but to be funded by cutting wasteful spending programme".
The Daily Mail, whilst rejoicing that the political establishment is finally "waking up to the economic benefits of tax cuts", it believes that none of the parties is planning to do enough to tackle the "tangle of red tape suffocating business" and "hugely bloated public sector". The paper asks: "Where is the new Mrs T?"
The Sun, meanwhile, has another proposal:
"Why don’t we seize this golden chance and raise the starting point for income tax — releasing millions of low earners from tax and welfare forever?"