Today Philip Hammond delivered the Spring Budget. Speculation predicted an “upbeat” message which would emphasise Britain’s economic resilience following the vote to leave the European Union nine months ago.
Below are just some examples of how NatCen data can shed light on who will be affected by some of today's announcements and how they are likely to be received by the public.
Tax and spend
The Chancellor today reiterated a series of previously announced tax cuts - increasing the thresholds for the basic and higher rates of income tax, as well as reducing corporation tax to 17% - as well as a tax increase for self-employed people (see below). We’ve been asking the public what the government should do about taxation and public spending since 1983. For the past decade, the most common response has been to keep taxes and public spending at the same level, although in 2015 there was considerable appetite for increased public spending and taxes.
The big story of the budget is tax. In particular, tax rises for the self-employed via an increase in their National Insurance Contributions.
We know already that many of the general public would welcome tax rises to pay for health, education and social benefits. But where do the self-employed stand on the issue? Their view is very similar to the population as a whole. 43% of them want an increase in taxes in order to spend more on public services, while 48% would like to see taxes and spending kept at the same level. Although the 43% backing an increase may not have had in mind one that is just for them.
Social care spending
It’s been difficult to avoid recent news surrounding the difficulties local authorities are having when it comes to meeting social care needs. Kirby Swales, NatCen’s Director of Survey Research, wrote a blog this week asking whether the government should consider putting in place an ageing strategy based on robust research. But in the meantime, the Chancellor has put aside a £2bn increase in funding over the next 3 years to help local authorities fund social care. Data from the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey show that almost everybody is in favour of the government paying for at least part of the cost of local authority social care.
The headlines were full of stories about long waiting times at Accident and Emergency departments this winter. It may not come as a surprise, then, that satisfaction with A&E services is lower than it is for other NHS services. And the most common reason for dissatisfaction with the NHS as a whole was the long waiting times. In order to address this, £100m has been set aside to fund a new triage system in English A&E departments in time for next winter.
The Chancellor announced changes to technical education in Britain that would see an increase in the number of hours training undertaken by 16-19 year olds undertaking T Levels from 2019-20. Interestingly, we know that the public already places a higher value on practical skills over academics.
Philip Hammond restated a policy announced in the Autumn Statement that the government would be introducing a penalty for people who promote tax avoidance schemes that are defeated by the HMRC. Re-announcing a popular policy is a common theme in Budgets and it's unsurprising given that in the 2014 British Social Attitudes survey 72% of the public said that never trying to evade taxes is “very important” (7 on a scale of 1-7) to being a good citizen.
Soft drinks levy
It probably won't come as a shock that drinks companies are amending their formulations to avoid paying the so-called “sugar tax” of up to 24p per litre for high-sugar soft drinks. This has the effect of reducing the £1bn revenue that was forecast to be raised from this measure. But the government pledged to top up any shortfall so that the PE and Sports Premium recieves the full amount that was expected. When we evaluated the Premium in 2015, we found that it increased the number of schools with a specialist PE teacher. Schools perceived the quality and range of equipment to have increased.