Reinfeldt: public services go before tax cuts

Public services and welfare are a higher priority than further tax cuts, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has told members of his Moderate Party.

Opened the party’s annual conference in Gävle, Reinfeldt made it clear that he was in no rush to abolish the so-called temporary austerity levy (‘värnskatt’), a supposedly temporary 5 percent rise in income tax for high earners, introduced during the economic troubles in the mid-nineties.

Reinfeldt struck a deliberately centrist note as he tried to drum up the support of members for the continued renewal of the party, with minds already turning to retaining power in the 2010 election.

“Changing a party requires courage and patience,” Reinfeldt said.

The prime minister criticized the fact that many people working in the public sector were considered to have low-status jobs.

“Why have they got that (low status)”, he asked. “This is what voters think is most important.”

Reinfeldt blamed bad employers, poor time management, top-down management and absent bosses for the low status of public sector jobs. He said finding answers to these problems was the future priority of his party.

“This is a question for our time that will be answered by the party of our time,” he said.

Conference organizers are putting the focus largely on employment policies, with the party’s action plan also containing detailed sections on equality and environmental policies.

Questions expected to give rise to debate include gay marriage – the leadership wants the traditionally conservative party to support a gender neutral marriage law. Members are also being urged to back the government’s opposition to looser hire-and-fire laws.