A majority of people want George Osborne to increase taxes for the rich in next month's Budget so he can take more low-paid workers out of tax, according to a survey for The Independent. Some 60 per cent of the public support the Liberal Democrats' flagship policy and key Budget demand, while 34 per cent oppose it. The ComRes finding is a boost for Nick Clegg, who is pressing the Chancellor to speed up the plan to raise the personal tax-free allowance to £10,000 by 2015.
The amount people can earn before paying tax will already rise from £7,475 to £8,105 a year in April. Mr Osborne, who has been irritated by the Lib Dems' public negotiating over his Budget, made clear at the weekend that any tax cuts would have to be funded by spending cuts or tax rise, not borrowing.
Mr Clegg's hand will be strengthened by the ComRes poll, which suggests that taking people out of tax could be a vote-winner among older voters, many of whom could benefit. Some 45 per cent of 18-24-year-olds believe high earners should pay more tax to lift those at the bottom out of the tax net. Among those aged 65 and over, support for this policy rises to 73 per cent.
The Lib Dem plan is more popular among men (64 per cent agree) than women (55 per cent). It enjoys the backing of half of Conservative supporters (51 per cent) and is more popular among Labour voters (69 per cent) than the Lib Dems' own supporters (64 per cent).
Labour has extended its lead from one point to three points since our last ComRes survey a month ago. Labour is on 40 per cent (up two points), the Conservatives on 37 per cent (unchanged), the Liberal Democrats on 13 per cent (down one point) and other parties on 10 per cent (down one point). Labour leads the Tories by 40 to 35 per cent among women, while the parties are neck and neck among men (40 per cent).
According to ComRes, there is public support for demands by Tory MPs for Budget tax cuts aimed at business, rather than individuals, to get the economy moving. Some 58 per cent of people back this approach, while 32 per cent disagree.
There is public scepticism about Labour's call for tax cuts if that means higher than planned borrowing in the short term. By a margin of 59 to 31 per cent, people believe the Chancellor should use any spare money to reduce the government deficit rather than cut taxes. Significantly, a majority of Labour supporters (54 per cent) back this statement, suggesting that the party may be out of step with its own voters. It is also endorsed by 74 per cent of Tory supporters and 49 per cent of Lib Dem supporters. Voters back by 61 to 33 per cent Mr Osborne's plans to end child benefit to families with at least one higher rate taxpayer.
ComRes interviewed 1,001 British adults by telephone between 24 and 26 February 2012.
Full tables at www.comres.co.uk