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British society divided on social values but majority back tax hikes to pay for cost of living help | Politics News

British society is divided on many social issues but the majority reject the government’s policy of tax cuts, according to a survey.

Britons disagree on issues from Scottish independence to proportional representation in elections but most agree that higher taxes should fund extra help for households through the cost of living crisis.

The National Centre of Social Research (NatCen) interviewed 6,250 people in Britain between September and October last year for its 39th annual British Social Attitudes report.

It showed 52% were behind raising taxes and spending more on health, education and social benefits.

As many as 46% of Conservative voters and 61% of Labour supported tax hikes.

And the majority would back government intervention similar to that seen during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the economy, as concerns mount over social inequality.

The survey pointed to fears over inequality increasing since the pandemic – with almost half (49%) calling for money to be redistributed to those who are less wealthy, a figure up 10% since 2019.

There were relatively few differences in economic values between northern and southern England – despite the government’s levelling up agenda highlighting regional inequalities.

But the attitude of people outside London is in marked contrast with those living in the capital, who are more pro-welfare and socially liberal.

Some 37% of people in the north expressed pro-welfare views compared to 35% in the south.

In London, this figure rose to 47% – against 30-37% elsewhere.

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The Truss plan: Economy, energy and NHS

Constitutional challenges

Participants were also quizzed about their views on Scottish independence – with the results showing Britain is more polarised than ever.

Some 52% of Scots are in favour of leaving the UK, up from 23% in 2012.

But the figure remains unchanged in England since 2012, with only one in four backing Scottish independence.

For the first time in the survey’s history, more people (51%) favour bringing in proportional representation for elections rather than the traditional first past the post system.

Support in Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK has slipped to below half (49%) for the first time, the research showed.

Culture wars including the issues of identity, immigration and equality could re-ignite the Brexit divide which saw Remain and Leave voters holding radically opposing views – but the balance of public opinion is mostly tipped towards socially liberal beliefs, according to the survey.

Under-pressure health service

Meanwhile satisfaction with the NHS plunged to its lowest level in 25 years, with long waiting lists described as a major barrier to receiving care.

Two thirds of people blamed long delays to get a GP or hospital appointment for being dissatisfied with the beleaguered health service.

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Record ambulance wait times in July

But more than half of people in England and Scotland said they would pay higher taxes to improve the level of healthcare for everyone.

Three quarters surveyed said the NHS should “definitely” be free of charge and available to everyone.

NatCen senior research fellow, Sir John Curtice, said: “The findings of our survey certainly suggest why Britain might appear divided, buffeted, and ‘broken’.

“The health service is widely thought not to be providing the timely service that people need and expect. Support for leaving the UK has grown in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and how Britain should be governed has become much more of a divisive issue.

“A new gap on attitudes to welfare and social issues has opened between the capital and the rest of the country. And divisions over ‘culture war’ issues could potentially become part of our politics, thereby helping to perpetuate the Brexit divide.

“True, the gap in attitudes between the North and the South of England appears to have narrowed, while people still have faith in having a tax-funded NHS that is free at the point of use.

“But the new government faces a particularly formidable challenge in bringing Britain together.”

Government ‘must do more’ to help energy consumers pay soaring bills | Business News

The government must increase its energy bills discount by at least 150% or risk pushing millions of households into financial distress.

That is the warning from consumer group Which? ahead of Friday’s announcement of the energy price cap for the three months from October.

In May, the government said that it would give every household a £400 discount on energy bills, with more help available for those deemed vulnerable, such as the disabled or pensioners.

This was announced when the energy price cap was predicted to reach around £2,800 in October, but more recent forecasts are predicting £3,554 in October, £4,650 in January, and more than £5,300 in April.

Which? said that the government’s support should, therefore, increase from £400 to £1,000 – or from £67 to £167 per month from October to March.

But even this would not be enough for those on the lowest incomes, Which? said, adding that they should also be given an extra one-off minimum payment of £150.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, added: “While increased support will provide relief for many, it is not a long-term solution.

“The government and regulator must urgently undertake a wide-ranging review of retail energy pricing – including the price cap – to build a fair and affordable system for consumers.

“The government must also develop a programme to urgently improve the insulation of homes – as this will help to reduce people’s energy costs for years to come.”

Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation said that, even with the support already announced, the four million people on pre-payment meters – often the most vulnerable – would be spending around 44% of their monthly disposable income on bills.

Jonny Marshall, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “A catastrophe is coming this winter as soaring energy bills risk causing serious physical and financial damage to families across Britain.

“We are on course for thousands to see their energy cut off entirely, while millions will be unable to pay bills and (will) build up unmanageable arrears.

“The new prime minister will need to think the unthinkable in terms of the policies needed to get sufficient support to where it’s needed most.

“Significant additional support should be targeted at those most exposed to rising bills and least able to cope with them, and be watertight so that no-one falls through the cracks.

“But none of the proposals from the leadership candidates or the opposition parties currently do this.”

The foundation also called for a new social energy tariff for low and middle income households, funded by an extra 1% on income tax rates.

Read more:
What happens if you can’t pay your energy bills
UK inflation to top 18% as gas prices soar, banking giant Citi forecasts

Mr Marshall said that would have been “an unthinkable policy in the context of the leadership debates, but a practical solution to the reality facing families this winter”.

Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group chief executive, added that low-income families will be short on their energy bills by an estimated £1,000 in the year to April 2023.

She said: “Over the next few months families will need extra support that covers their costs and reflects family size, and social security must rise to match inflation from April.

“Four million children are already in poverty with many others now perilously close to it. Leaving their families to sink cannot be an option.”

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “We know the pressures people are facing with rising costs, which is why we are taking direct action to help households with £37bn worth of support.

“In addition to providing eight million of the most vulnerable households with £1,200 extra support this winter, we are also investing £6.6bn in this parliament to improve energy efficiency as part of the government’s ‘Help to Heat’ programme which is helping make households across the country cheaper to heat.”

Liz Truss extends poll lead over Rishi Sunak after public sector pay plan U-turn | Politics News

Liz Truss has extended her lead over Rishi Sunak among Tory members, according to a new poll, after the foreign secretary U-turned on a plan to link public sector pay to regional living costs.

On Monday night, the leadership race frontrunner said she would save £8.8bn by introducing regional pay boards instead of national ones to set salaries for civil servants, reflecting where they lived.

But experts warned that to reach the sum, the plan would have to branch out further than government departments, with the likes of teachers, nurses, and police officers also receiving lower pay than workers in the South.

It led to outrage from Conservative MPs, and by lunchtime today – less than 24 hours later – Ms Truss’ team had released a statement saying the policy would not be taken forward.

Politics Hub: Sunak allies attack Truss public sector pay plan

A statement insisted “current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained”, adding: “Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.”

Team Truss also claimed there had been a “wilful misrepresentation” of the policy, but former Tory whip Mark Harper said they should “stop blaming journalists” for reporting on the details in her own press release.

A Team Sunak source pointed to comparisons made between Ms Truss and former PM Margaret Thatcher, twisting her famous phrase for today’s events: “The lady is for turning.”

While the influential Tory mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, told reporters the policy would be “a sure-fire way to lose the next general election”.

The first major error from Ms Truss’s campaign came as Mr Sunak battles to make up ground during what is a key week in the contest for the keys to No 10.

But the day ended on a high for Ms Truss following the publication of the latest YouGov poll of Conservative members, which shows she has extended her lead over Mr Sunak to 34 points in the Tory leadership race.

The survey, carried out for The Times, finds that 60% of party members are now saying they will vote for the foreign secretary to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.

This is compared to just 26% for former chancellor Mr Sunak.

Analysis: Sunak supporters will fear the game is up

Jon Craig - Chief political correspondent

Jon Craig

Chief political correspondent

@joncraig

After a day in which Liz Truss’ Tory leadership campaign took a battering over her regional pay blunder, suddenly it’s Rishi Sunak who’s on the ropes, according to a shock new poll.

What’s surprising is not just the massive lead the YouGov poll suggests Ms Truss now has over Mr Sunak, but the claim that almost nine in 10 Tory members have already made up their mind.

At 26%, the level of support for the former chancellor is dismal, and the 60% predicted to back the foreign secretary will calm nerves in her camp after her embarrassing public sector pay U-turn.

Although it’s only one poll and opinion polls are just a snapshot, YouGov’s findings suggest Ms Truss could be heading for a victory as decisive as Boris Johnson’s over Jeremy Hunt in 2019.

Then Mr Johnson polled 66.4% of the votes of party members and Mr Hunt 33.6%, a winning margin of nearly 33%, similar to the 34-point lead YouGov now gives Ms Truss over Mr Sunak.

The YouGov poll also suggests only 14% of party members are undecided or say they won’t vote, and it fiercely contradicts an earlier private poll suggesting the gap had narrowed to just five points.

YouGov’s last poll before this one was carried after the five rounds of voting by MPs, when Penny Mordaunt was eliminated, and suggested a 24-point lead for Ms Truss over Mr Sunak, by 62%-38%.

The apparent widening of the gap, in the week party members receive their ballot papers, will delight Truss supporters – and, no doubt, those of the ousted Mr Johnson who want to see Mr Sunak crushed.

But it is likely to plunge the Sunak camp into gloom, panic and despair and spread fears in his team that the game is up for the former chancellor, even before most Tory members cast their vote.

The poll, carried out over the last five days, shows that Ms Truss is now ahead of Mr Sunak among all age groups, across different parts of the country and with men and women.

The only category where he beats Ms Truss is among Tory Remain supporters.

The YouGov survey published today also found that almost nine in 10 Conservative members have now made up their minds how they will vote ahead of ballot papers going out this week.

But it will concern both potential next leaders that more than 50% of party members believed that whoever was elected to succeed Mr Johnson would lose the party its majority at the next election.

Just 19% of members thought Mr Sunak could lead the Tories to victory, while 39% thought Ms Truss could see off a challenge from Labour.

As the leadership race continues to heat up, candidates Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will once again face the cameras this week on Sky News.

Taking place on Thursday 4 August at 8pm at Sky Studios in west London, The Battle for Number 10, will see the candidates take part in back-to-back questioning from the live studio audience made up of Conservative Party members who remain largely undecided on who to vote for.

This will then be followed by an in-depth interview with Kay Burley.

The programme will be broadcast live for 90 minutes and for free on Sky News channel 501, on Freeview 233, on Sky Showcase channel 106, and across Sky News’ digital channels.