POLITICS
02/03/2015 09:53 GMT | Updated 02/03/2015 10:59 GMT

George Osborne's Austerity Plan Isn't Making Many Voters Happy, Poll Shows

ASSOCIATED PRESS
British Finance Minister George Osborne, right, walks out to bid farewell to Greece's new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis after their meeting at 11 Downing Street in London, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. France's Socialist government offered support Sunday for Greece's efforts to renegotiate debt for its huge bailout plan, amid renewed fears about Europe's economic stability. The backing was a victory for Varoufakis, striking a more conciliatory tone as he seeks new conditions on debt from creditors

Very few voters are happy with George Osborne's austerity plans, a poll has found, with over a quarter wanting a slowdown in the rate of cuts.

The survey, conducted by ComRes, found that barely a quarter (24%) of voters backed the current rate of spending cuts, with just 7% wanting deeper cuts, and 30% wanting a slower rate of cuts.

Almost a quarter of voters think public spending cuts should be halted or spending increased, regardless of the effect on the UK's deficit, the poll revealed.

Conservative supporters pointed out that the poll indicated that fractionally more people back the current rate of deficit reduction, or want it to go further, than prefer a slowdown.

Faced with a series of options, 14% said the budgets should be kept at 2014/15 levels and as many as one in 10 backed more spending "regardless of the deficit".

Elin Twigge, deputy managing director at public affairs agency PLMR which commissioned the research, pointed to the rise of anti-austerity parties like Syriza in Greece and the SNP in Scotland as a sign of the backlash against cuts.

"This poll shows that while voters agree that the deficit does need to continue to be cut - they are split on how and when the deficit should be eliminated, with marginally more voters appearing to favour Labour's approach," she said.

"But a quarter of voters are challenging the orthodoxy of these austerity measures altogether, a view which is particularly interesting given the recent example of Syriza and the promise by the SNP."

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have called for banks to be hit with an additional £1 billion tax grab until the deficit is eliminated.

The raid on the financial sector - which would effectively strip banks of the benefit of recent corporation tax cuts - forms part of the party's economic blueprint for the next parliament.

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Like the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are committed to a further £30 billion of fiscal "consolidation" in the new parliament to clear the deficit in the public finances by 2017/18.

Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, Osborne's deputy as chief secretary to the Treasury, said the banks had recovered sufficiently to make a contribution to deficit reduction on top of the existing bank levy.

"Failings in the banking system were a major factor in the great crash of 2008. That is why we have always insisted that the banks help fund repairing the economy," he said.

"To that end, we introduced the Bank Levy which is on track to raise £8 billion in this parliament. With the final stage of deficit reduction requiring around £30 billion of savings, it would be totally wrong for all of that to be found from cuts to public services as the Conservatives propose.

"Liberal Democrats believe that we must balance the books and do so fairly, so it is only right to reconsider whether banks are making a fair contribution to deficit reduction. This tax would remain in place until that job is complete.

"Many banks were left seriously weakened after the crash. But as a result of our comprehensive range of reforms, and the strong economic recovery, the banking sector is now returning to health and profitability.

"So now is the right time to ask the sector to contribute a little more to help us balance the nation's books. That's the right way to keep our strong economy on track, and build a fairer society too."