September 20, 2018 / 11:25 PM / a month ago

Support in UK for more tax and spending at 15-year high: survey

LONDON (Reuters) - Support in Britain for increased levels of tax to fund more public spending has hit a 15-year high, according to a survey published on Friday, after nearly a decade of government efforts to cut its budget deficits.

People walk across the Millennium Bridge in central London, Britain, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) said its survey, based on interviews conducted in 2017, showed 60 percent of respondents backed more tax and spending, up from 49 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2010.

“Since 2010 the proportion of people who want more tax and spend has nearly doubled and shows the country is clearly tiring of austerity,” NatCen’s Head of Public Attitudes, Roger Harding, said.

The survey showed majority support for more tax and spending from voters for the ruling center-right Conservative Party, which typically favors lower taxes, as well as supporters of the left-wing opposition Labour Party, NatCen said.

The last time more than half of Conservative voters thought the government should raise tax and spending was in 2002, it said.

With many voters angry about a fall in their earnings over the past 10 years, when adjusted for inflation, Prime Minister Theresa May promised in June to spend more money on the health service.

Britain has slashed its budget deficit from about 10 percent of economic output in 2010 to around 2 percent now. Finance minister Philip Hammond has said his priority is to bring down the stockpile of public debt, which he says remains too high at around 85 percent of GDP.

More spending on the health service was the top priority for 54 percent of respondents in the NatCen poll, followed by education with 26 percent and housing 7 percent.

A third of those polled said tax and spending levels should stay unchanged and 4 percent thought the government should tax and spend less.

The NatCen survey on tax and spending was based on responses from 2,963 people interviewed between July and October last year as part of its broad British Attitudes Survey, other findings of which have been published in recent months.

A NatCen spokeswoman said the delay in publishing the findings was typical for the British Attitudes Survey.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Andrew Roche

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