UK PM Johnson raises taxes to tackle health and social care crisis

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans on Tuesday to raise taxes on workers, employers and some investors to try to fix a health and social care funding crisis, angering some in his governing party by breaking an election promise, Reuters reports.

After spending huge amounts of money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson is returning to an election pledge to address Britain's creaking social care system, where costs are projected to double as the population ages over the next two decades.

He also moved to try to tackle a backlog in Britain's health system, which has seen millions waiting months for treatment from the state-run National Health Service after resources were refocused to deal with COVID-19.

"It would be wrong for me to say that we can pay for this recovery without taking the difficult but responsible decisions about how we finance it," Johnson told parliament.

"It would be irresponsible to meet the costs from higher borrowing and higher debt," he said, outlining increases that broke a promise made in his Conservative Party's 2019 manifesto not to raise such levies to fund social care.

British politicians have tried for years to find a way to pay for social care, though successive Conservative and Labour prime ministers have ducked the issue because they feared it would anger voters and their own parties.

Ignoring disquiet in his party, Johnson outlined what he described as a new health and social care levy that will see the rate of National Insurance payroll taxes paid by both workers and employers rise by 1.25 percentage points, with the same increase also applied to the tax on shareholder dividends.

He said the increases would raise 36 billion pounds ($50 billion) over three years.

The pound fell against the euro and dollar after the announced measures, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies said would increase Britain's tax burden to 35% of GDP - a peacetime record.

Johnson has tried to cool anger within his party, which has for decades positioned itself as a defender of low taxes, over the hikes, which some lawmakers fear could lose them support at an election due in 2024. Parliament will debate the measures further on Wednesday.


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