Majority of UK public supports more public services spending

Svetlana Ekimenko

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the two contenders for Tory leadership, locked horns over how to alleviate the burden of the cost of living crisis on UK households, with the ex-chancellor vowing to introduce a new package of support, while the Foreign Secretary continues to push a low-tax platform.
While the Tory leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson that has pitted Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, against ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak, has been dominated by the tax cuts issue, the latest Opinium poll found this was not uppermost in the public’s minds.
Rather than demand tax cuts, a majority of the British public is concerned that spending on public services, such as funding of schools and the NHS, be increased, a new Observer poll has shown.
Opinium polled 2,010 people online on August 3 – 5 to discover that about a third (34%) think that taxes and spending on public services should remain at current levels. Some 26% of those surveyed would even prefer for taxes to be raised to allow for an increase in public services funding. Just 22% said that taxes should be reduced.
The poll also showed th-at among those who voted Conservative at the previous election, 41% wanted tax and spending levels to remain as they currently are. A cut in taxes was supported by 27%, with 22% of those surveyed saying they would applaud an increase in taxes to cover public spending costs.
The poll revealed that about a quarter (24%) fear that tax cuts would only serve to hike up inflation. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) – a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid for a market basket of consumer goods and services – rose by 9.4% in the 12 months to June 2022. UK inflation is heading for 13% in 2022, the Bank of England warn-ed last week. The BoE also said that the UK faces plu-mmeting household incom-es amid a recession that will last more than a year.
The Opinium poll showed that 12% of the British public agree with Liz Truss that tax cuts were needed to make the rate go down, while 24% believed that it would not make any difference.
As for the Tory leadership contest, the Opinium poll also revealed that Tory voters appear to be increasingly wooed by Liz Truss.
The proportion of 2019 Tory voters acknowledging that that the Foreign Secretary “looks like a prime minister in waiting” has risen from +5% to +28% overall since the last survey. Sunak, meanwhile, has seen his rating drop from +14% to +6%.
48% of 2019 Tory voters believe that Truss would be the best prime minister, while no more than 22% opt for Sunak. Currently, Liz Truss is seen as a frontrunner to walk through the door of Number 10, Downing Street on September 6. Tory voters currently r-ated Liz Truss “up by double digit amounts” according to Adam Drummond, associate director at Opinium.
“Tory voters think they’re more likely to win the next election with Truss than Sunak and when the two candidates are put in head-to-head match-ups against Keir Starmer among all voters, Sunak trails by 4 (essentially the same as Boris Johnson) while Truss leads by 1, although the real winner in all of these head-to-heads is ‘none of these’, which is higher than any individual candidate,” he said, adding:
“But in October energy prices are going up 70% and the Bank of England predicts a five-quarter rec-ession, and any honeymoon the new prime minister gets is likely to be short-lived.”
In the latest verbal tussle between the two rivals, the ex-chancellor warned it was “wrong” of Truss to rule out further direct support to British households in the winter. He was referencing the recent statement made by Truss to the Fina-ncial Times, as she vowed she would do things “in a Conservative way of lowering the tax burden, not giving out handouts.”
Truss has promised tax cuts costing about £30bn, reversing the increase in national insurance contributions and abandoning a planned increase in corporation tax.
However, Sunak warned that “inflation is a major danger” to the UK economy, saying that the Foreign Secretary’s tax proposals were “not going to help very significantly, people like pensioners or those on low incomes who are exactly the kind of families that are going to need help.” Rishi Sunak pledged he would “go further” than the support package of up to £1,200 he announced as chancellor. Rishi Sunak has vowed that business tax cuts will be prioritised if he were to win the leadership contest, and pledged a 1p income tax cut in 2024.