Approval of government cuts at lowest level for years

March 16, 2016, 10:01 AM GMT+0

On three measures approval of government cuts has taken a significant hit – and confidence in Britain's economy has lost a year's worth of ground

2015's budget, the first all-Tory budget since 1996, was delivered in the early days of the present Conservative government – when government approval was at a three-year high and two of the policies George Osborne announced, raising the personal tax allowance and minimum wage, were supported by at least 80% of the British public. As we recently reported, the honemoon in government approval is now over. The year began with alarm bells ringing over the global economy, and Conservative in-fighting over the European Union referendum has distracted the process of government. The Chancellor goes into this year's budget with the lowest approval rating (-24) since June 2013 (-27).

George Osborne has already warned of cuts "equivalent to 50p in every £100" in today's budget, dispensing with the sunny tone of 2015 and suggesting a return to the hard work of 'living within our means' to withstand global shocks. However new YouGov research reveals a significant loss of appetite for cuts.

The net % of British people who say government cuts are necessary (+12) is the lowest since we started asking the question in February 2011 (+21). Spending cuts also now have the lowest rating for fairness (-38) since September 2012 (-40) and the lowest score for being good for the British economy (-8) since August 2013 (-8).

Interestingly, compared to historical levels few now say cuts are having an impact on their life (42% compared to 37% who say they are not). In March 2011 by comparison, when the government was cutting spending at a measurably faster rate, 72% said cuts were impacting their lives while 19% said they were not.

On two measures, economic confidence has been set back by around a year. On the government's handling of the economy and the state of the British economy the latest figures are at levels last seen around January 2015.

In July 2015 34% predicted the British economy would improve in the next 12 months and 30% said it would get worse, now only 14% expect an improvement while 38% predict a decline.

George Osborne has said weaker growth and revenue imbalances will force the Treasury to make an additional £4bn of savings by 2020, although there have been hints of sweeteners. Under a new scheme low-paid workers may receive top-ups to their savings from the government, and it has also been suggested the personal tax allowance could be raised alongside the level at which the 40p tax rate takes effect.

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