More Labour Than Tory Voters Want To See Tax Cuts In Jeremy Hunt's Budget
Jeremy Hunt has dismissed suggestions he could cut taxes next month (Alamy)
A new poll has found Conservative voters would prefer Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prioritise debt reduction over tax cuts if the UK economy improves, while a significant number of Labour voters are keen to see taxes reduced.
An exclusive new poll of 1,500 eligible voters in Great Britain by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for PoliticsHome, conducted on 23 February, found Conservative voters were marginally more supportive of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's debt reduction plans than they were for calls to reduce taxes if the UK's fiscal picture improves.
It found just 34 per cent of voters who backed the Conservatives at the 2019 general election wanted tax cuts prioritised, while 35 per cent wanted debt reduction to be the government's key focus.
It puts them significantly at odds with Labour voters where 42 per cent said they were eager to see the tax burden reduced, compared to just 25 per cent who wanted debt to be reduced.
Labour voters were also significantly more in favour of using any additional funds to increase public spending (21 per cent) compared to just 13 per cent of Conservative backers.
But the poll found 42 per cent of all voters did not believe the government was in a position to reduce the tax burden, including 51 per cent of Conservative voters, while 32 per cent thought it was the right time to cut taxes.
Overall it found 35 per cent of voters supported tax reduction in the event of an improved Treasury take or because other factors reduce government borrowing, while 29 per cent wanted the government to use any fiscal headroom to reduce national debt.
A further 18 per cent said their preference would be for increases in public spending, while just 7 per cent wanted the government to save the money for later.
The findings put Conservative voters at odds with many of the party's own MPs, who are actively lobbying Hunt to reduce the tax burden at the 15 March Budget, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith saying it would be a "disaster" to "crush the economy in pursuit of inflation".
"There is easily a majority on the backbenches for the notion that we need tax cuts in the Budget."
Hunt is facing growing pressure to break away from his inflation reduction strategy following a surprise surplus in government finances after new figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility showed record income from self-assessment tax returns.
Government borrowing in January was also significantly lower than expected, partly due to a lower than expected spend on energy support measures as a result of falling wholesale gas prices.
But Hunt has dismissed the calls from MPs, saying it was "vital" to stick to his economic plans given record levels of government debt.
Speaking after the OBR figures were released last week, he said: "We are rightly spending billions now to support households and businesses with the impacts of rising prices – but with debt at the highest level since the 1960s, it is vital we stick to our plan to reduce debt over the medium-term."
He added: "Getting debt down will require some tough choices, but it is crucial to reduce the amount spent on debt interest so we can protect our public services."
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