Britain prepared to pay more tax to support the NHS, poll finds


Political Editor

A majority of people are ready to pay more tax to safeguard the NHS and head off a looming financial crisis, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent.

Asked if they would be prepared to pay more tax to maintain the current level of care and services provided by the NHS, 57 per cent agreed and 41 per cent disagreed. The finding will encourage Labour, which is considering a plan to include an earmarked “health tax” in its general election manifesto next year.

But the poll also contains worrying news for Labour. Ed Miliband enjoys only a narrow lead over David Cameron on health, traditionally one of Labour’s strongest issues. One in three people (33 per cent) trust Mr Miliband to protect the NHS, while 29 per cent trust Mr Cameron. Three out of 10 Labour supporters (31 per cent) do not trust Mr Miliband to safeguard the NHS, while 64 per cent do.

According to ComRes, Labour’s lead has dropped from five to two points since last month. Labour is now on 32 per cent (down three points); the Conservatives are unchanged on 30 per cent; Ukip is up four points to 18 per cent, its highest in a ComRes telephone poll for The Independent; the Liberal Democrats are down one point to a record low of 7 per cent, and other parties on 13 per cent (no change). Although such figures would give Labour a majority of 22 at the election, the party’s MPs will be worried that the Tories have closed the gap.

There is a growing acceptance among the three main political parties, health think tanks and NHS professionals that the service is facing huge budget pressures that cannot be met by further efficiency savings. Senior Conservative MPs have joined calls for a major cash injection. The Liberal Democrats may propose higher NHS spending in their manifesto and may press for a £2bn pre-election rise to stave off a crisis in the run-up to polling day.

Labour intends to make a “big offer” on health and wants to make it a key election battleground. It is considering three options to boost NHS spending: a ring-fenced rise in national insurance contributions (NICs) for employers and workers; delaying the deficit-reduction programme  and a budget increase once the nation’s books have been balanced.

As Chancellor, Gordon Brown raised NICs by one per cent in 2002 to help bring Britain’s spending on health up to the European average. Some Labour figures are wary that such a pledge now could undermine Mr Miliband’s “cost of living” agenda as higher NICs would put more pressure on family budgets. But last night Labour supporters of a major health cash promise took comfort from the ComRes findings.

Three in five Conservative voters (57 per cent) would pay more tax to protect the NHS, as would two-thirds of Labour supporters (67 per cent). Ukip supporters are split 50-50 on the issue. All age groups are prepared to pay more tax except 35-44 year-olds.

Two in three people (67 per cent) say that they do not mind if  health services are provided by a private company or the NHS as long as they remain free of charge, while 30 per cent disagree. A majority of Labour supporters (59 per cent) share this view. Working class people are the most likely to agree with this statement. Some 74 per cent of those in the bottom DE social group do not mind whether services are provided by a private firm or the NHS, compared to 62 per cent among the AB top grade.

Patrick Diamond, a former Downing Street policy adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said: “These poll findings demonstrate there is a real appetite among the British electorate for higher taxes to ensure the NHS remains on a sustainable financial footing. The key policy issue is how to make NHS spending more transparent so voters know how well the extra money is being used, combined with measures that widen choice and control over services to maintain the public consensus for a universal, taxpayer-funded NHS.”

A survey for Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy Tory chairman, puts the Tories (33 per cent) two points ahead of Labour (31 per cent). The Tories are up five points and Labour down two since his last poll.

ComRes interviewed 1,005 GB adults by telephone between June 27-29. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent