Britons most oppose raising council tax and VAT ahead of Autumn Statement

Ahead of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, we look at which policies would, and would not, be popular among the British public

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Ben Roff Public Affairs
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  • Majority also oppose limiting public sector pay rises, cutting spending on public services and removing triple lock on state pensions
  • But most would support raising windfall tax on oil and energy companies, increasing top rate of tax for earnings over £150k, and freezing overseas aid at 0.5%

With the Autumn Statement due on Thursday, new research by Ipsos shows Britons are likely to oppose many potential tax-raising or public spending-cutting policies which could affect all or large portions of society.  Support is higher for policies which target oil and gas companies and higher earners, and to freeze overseas aid. 

From a prompted list of potential policies to reduce government debt by raising more money through taxes or reducing public spending, there is most opposition to increasing council tax and VAT. Seven in 10 (70%) are opposed to increasing the amount council tax can rise each year from 2% to at least 5%, including 41% who are strongly opposed, while only 12% support.   Almost two-thirds oppose (64%, 37% strongly) increasing VAT from 20% to 22%, while just 16% support.

Other policies that most Britons are against include:

  • Limiting public sector pay rises to 2% (54% oppose while just 18% support) 
  • Cutting the amount spending on public spending grows from 2025 to 2028 to just 1% each year (52% oppose, 19% support). Opinions are more split on cutting back government spending on major infrastructure projects, which 30% support while 37% oppose
  • Removing the triple lock on state pensions so they do not rise by as much as inflation (53% support, 20% oppose). Just under half (47%) are also opposed to not raising benefits payments next year as much as inflation, although 31% support this proposal.

Support for potential economic policies in this week's Autumn Statement

The public are most likely to support raising the energy windfall tax on profits earned by oil and gas companies from 25% to 30%, 71% are in favour of this policy (51% strongly support it) while just 1 in 10 oppose (10%). Six in 10 (60%) also support keeping overseas aid at 0.5% of GDP instead of raising it back to 0.7% as planned, while 16% are opposed.

Opinions vary when it comes to potential changes to income and other taxes, with policies focussing on higher earners most popular:

  • 64% support increasing the amount raised in income tax by increasing the top rate of tax from 45% to 50% to earnings over 150,000, just 15% are opposed
  • Just under 6 in 10 (57%) are in favour of lowering the threshold for paying 45% tax from earnings above £150,000 to earnings above £140,000, while 15% are opposed
  • Around 2 in 5 (42%) support freezing the threshold for paying 40% of income tax at earnings above £52,270 until 2028, while 20% are opposed
  • Increasing the amount raised in inheritance tax by freezing the threshold for paying it at £325,000 until 2028 is supported by 40%, while 26% oppose it
  • However, only 3 in 10 (29%) support freezing the threshold for paying 20% income tax at earnings above 12,750 until 2028, while 33% are opposed
  • A similar proportion, 28%, support increasing both employers’ and employees’ National Insurance contributions by 1.25%, while 43% oppose.

Support for potential economic policies in this week's Autumn Statement

Expectations for the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Opinion is split on how Jeremy Hunt may impact Britain’s economy. Around a third (32%) think he will change it for the worse, while a similar proportion (31%) believe he will make no difference. Just over 1 in 5 (22%) believe he will make it better.  Since October, there has been a slight increase in both those who think he will change Britain’s economy for the better (up 6 pts) and for the worse (up 5), although his scores remain much better than Kwasi Kwarteng’s in September, who 58% thought would have a negative impact on the economy.

Among Conservatives supporters from 2019, almost 4 in 10 (37%) think Jeremy Hunt will improve the economy, while around a third expect him to make no difference (32%) and a quarter say he’ll change it for the worse (23%). 

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said:

With high levels of concern about the economy, the cost of living, and the state of public services, Jeremy Hunt will be under no illusions about some of the public reaction to the difficult decisions facing him on November 17th. As we have seen in previous research, overseas aid tends to be the public service where Britons are happiest to see cuts, and there is also support for windfall taxes or higher income tax rates for the most well-off.  However, there is much less appetite for broader-based measures, either revenue raising in terms of rises in taxes such as council tax or VAT, or more comprehensive cuts to public services as a whole.  This is the dilemma facing the Chancellor – how to regain confidence in overall perceptions of the Conservatives’ economic policy, but when there is little public consensus for the most painful tax rises or spending cuts.

Technical note:

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,086 adults aged 18-75 in Great Britain. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus 11th-14th November 2022. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.
     

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Ben Roff Public Affairs

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