Public “in denial” over spending cuts

The RSA’s fringe event at Labour party conference focused on how the public is in "denial" about the necessity of public spending cuts. Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos-MORI, set out that voters are "in denial" over spending cuts.

The RSA’s fringe event, “Public Services in a cold climate: what should be the priorities?” focused on how the public is in “denial” about the necessity of public spending cuts.

Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos-MORI, talking through a series of slides set out that voters are “in denial” over spending cuts. The public disagree by 48 per cent to 21 per cent that too much is spent on public services. 38 per cent say spending on public services should be maintained “even if it means increasing the income tax I pay.” By contrast, 36 per cent thought government thought borrowing should be reduced. Inheritance tax rises were among the most popular with 24 per cent favouring increases and only 1 per cent opposing.

Page, speaking exclusively to Left Foot Forward after the event, said:

“The public are not convinced that there will need to be massive cuts in front line services in order to balance the books. In fact, 50 per cent deny that the debt situation needs addressing in that way.”

Asked what kind of public spending cuts or tax increases he expected, Page said:

“Some addition to VAT, possibly that going up to 20 per cent, that’s certainly being mooted around the Conservative party, for example … And probably things like the promised inheritance tax cuts, those probably won’t happen.”

Watch it here:

Keynote speaker Peter Mandelson, who did not stay for questions, focused his speech on public services reform calling for the public sector to meet the 2 to 3 per cent productivity gains of the private sector.

But Robert Chote, Director of the IFS, said, “by down playing the scale of the challenge [the Government] is not drawing the dividing lines that are potentially open.” But in an apparent rebuke to the Conservatives he said that, “The argument that the fiscal stimulus was unaffordable does not stack up.”

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, said that government needs, “to share with the public what the down side of choices are.” He went on, “We need to move from a welfare state based on social security to one of social productivity, increasing people’s self reliance.”

UPDATE: Ben Page’s slides can be downloaded here.

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