29/10/2012 08:01 GMT

Child Benefit: Voters Support Government Plans To End Universal Entitlement

As letters fall onto the doormats of families waiting to hear if their child benefit has been cut, a poll commissioned by the Conservatives shows that the overwhelming majority of voters support Government plans to cut the benefit for high-earning families.

People on high incomes, who are likely to lose the benefit, also support the move to take their benefit away.

The poll found an 82% backing for the move, which will hit the top 15% of earners on £50,000 or more and end the principle of universal entitlement to child benefit.

The Labour party still opposes the cut, but recent criticisms targeted the government's method of removing the benefit, rather than the ideology behind universal entitlement.

Cathy Jamieson MP, Labour's Shadow Treasury Minister said this week: "With just a few weeks until hundreds of thousands of parents lose every penny of their child benefit it's becoming ever clearer that David Cameron and George Osborne simply haven't thought this policy through.

"It's unfair with some couples earning as much as £100,000 keeping all their child benefit but one earner families on just £50,000 seeing theirs cut.

child benefit

A child at an anti-cuts protest in London

"And the chaotic way it is being implemented looks set to be yet another example of this Government’s incompetence.”

The debate was split on social networking sites, though many said they did not mind losing the benefit.

Letters will be going out from HM Revenue and Customs from Monday to advise around one million households how their payments will change, amid warnings from Conservative backbenchers of a backlash from traditional Tory voters.

The poll was commissioned in part to demonstrate public support for the move - to the Conservatives' own backbenchers. It will save the Treasury £1.7bn a year. Strategists called it one of the Tories' most popular policies.

From January next year, families in which one parent earns more than £60,000 a year will lose all their benefit, which is currently £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for each child after that.

Families where one parent earns between £50,000 and £60,000 will have the benefit reduced on a sliding scale.

The change will cost families with three children and at least one parent earning over £60,000 about £2,450 a year.

And it will produce anomalies, as two-earner households where both parents earn £49,000 will keep all their benefit, while neighbours who have one parent on £60,000 and the other staying at home will lose all of theirs.

Despite this, pollsters Populus found strong support for the change from all income groups, of the 2,066 adults surveyed.

The poll found strong opposition to raising the £1.7 billion from other potential sources. Some 75% of those questioned said that tax increases would be a worse option, 79% said cuts to welfare for low-income families would be worse, 79% said the same about cuts to public service spending and 80% about more state borrowing.

Responding to the Conservative poll, a Treasury spokesman said: "In a period when the Government is having to reduce welfare spending, it is very difficult to justify continuing to pay for the child benefit of the wealthiest 15% of families in society.

"The unprecedented scale of the deficit has meant that the Government has had to make tough choices to reduce public spending; but we have always been clear that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden.

"Eighty-five per cent of all families with children are unaffected and will continue to receive child benefit in full. Ninety per cent will benefit in full or in part.

"HM Revenue & Customs will write to people with income over £50,000 who live at an address where child benefit is received to explain how their family is likely to be affected."