Lib Dems recruit 50p tax inspectors

By Alex Stevenson

Over 2,000 tax inspectors are to be recruited in a bid to maximise revenue from the 50p tax, as the Liberal Democrats seek to find ways to justify keeping the tax.

Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander unveiled the plans for a new "affluence team" in his speech to the party conference in Birmingham today.

His party is coming under intensive pressure from the Conservatives to scrap the top rate, which many Tories argue is counter-productive.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg made clear yesterday that the 50p rate of income tax would only be scrapped if there was "significant progress" for tax breaks helping those on low- and middle-incomes.

Mr Alexander told delegates the 2,250 inspectors will "scrutinise people in the high income bracket to make sure they are paying their fair share".

Those earning over £150,000 currently pay the 50p rate. Mr Alexander also wants to earn more revenue from the 350,000 whose personal wealth exceeds £2.5 million.

His speech also saw him deliver a troubled assessment of the "big problems" facing Britain's economy, which has struggled to begin a convincing recovery from recession in the last 12 months.

"As Liberal Democrats, our judgments about what needs to be done should be driven by the liberal economy we want to build," he said.

"Sustainable, balanced, competitive, fair. To get there we must break down the vested interests – the enemies of growth that stand in the way of future prosperity."

Mr Alexander also announced £500 million of funding for local infrastructure projects, as well as an extra £100 million for local authority housing.