Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Most voters back child benefit axe

Letters are being sent by HM Revenue and Customs to advise around one million households how their child benefit payments will change
Letters are being sent by HM Revenue and Customs to advise around one million households how their child benefit payments will change

An overwhelming majority of voters support Government plans to cut child benefit for high-earning families, according to private polling commissioned by the Conservative Party.

The poll found 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 change was even supported by large majorities of families with children and people on high incomes.

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.

But party strategists believe the poll shows the move - estimated to save the Treasury £1.7 billion a year - is one of their most popular policies. They see it as a clear signal to voters that Chancellor George Osborne is making good on his promise to ensure that those with the broadest shoulders take their share of the burden of reducing the deficit.

Tories challenged Labour to say whether they would restore child benefit to top earners, and if so how they would fund it.

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.

Overall, 82% backed the plan, against 13% who opposed it. Among households earning £69,000 or more, 74% were in favour, compared to 82% of those earning £55-£69,000 and 80% of those earning £41-£55,000. Strongest support, at 89%, was found in households with a total income of £14-£21,000.

There was 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.

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