Labour vows to force vote on pensions tax break
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Britain’s pre-eminent polling guru, Professor Sir John Curtice, has delivered a stark warning to the Labour Party after it decided to oppose the Government’s move to abolish limits on the amount people can save in their pension pot without being taxed. Polling shows the public overwhelmingly back the policy and is not the vote winner Labour might hope.
Detailed polling by Omnisis of individual Budget measures shows that more people back the policies than oppose them.
While the move to freeze fuel duty and retain subsidies for energy bills come out as the most popular – both measures receiving the support of three in every four voters – the changes to pension taxation are backed by the large majority of voters too.
According to the poll, 66 percent support the increase in the annual allowance, and 60 percent back the change to the lifetime allowance.
A majority of Labour supporters back both policies.
In light of this polling, Prof Sir John has warned Labour that its decision to attack the change “may not resonate as strongly with voters” as they assume.
Labour’s decision to oppose the relief for pension savers received a drubbing in the press overnight, with the Times, Telegraph and Mail warning that their promise to reverse the change should they win the election “will hit millions” and “throw back-to-work plans into chaos”.
If Labour did reverse the policy upon an election victory, analysis by the Telegraph has shown two million people could face paying taxes of up to 55 percent on their pension pots.
Former pensions secretary Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “This is a mistake by Labour.
“They have taken the bait and not thought this through.
“Labour is saying that people should come back to work but not be able to add to their pension. Why not? It’s their money.
“We need people to return to work but they are not going to do so if they are penalised in this way.”
Tory MP John Baron, who serves on the Commons’ Treasury Select Committee, accused Labour of promoting “class war” by threatening to penalise well-paid professionals.
He said: “I do believe that Labour is trying to play the class war on this issue, when in reality the policy is aimed at trying to ensure that we retain good people within the workforce.”
Labour’s criticism of the government’s policy has also been undermined by their Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, calling for a similar policy last September.
Seven months ago he said the pensions cap was “crazy” and it puts doctors off working later into their careers.
He said: “I’m not pretending that doing away with the cap is a particularly progressive move. But it is one that sees patients seen faster, and will inevitably save lives. I’m just being hard-headed and pragmatic about this.”
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Labour frontbenchers are now having to explain why they changed their view on the policy.
Mr Streeting now says he called for a change specifically for doctors, rather than across the board, though Downing Street has said that a targeted NHS scheme could have penalised army medics, as well as hurt other white-collar professionals the government is hoping to incentivise into working longer.
It’s also been suggested that Labour’s promise to reverse the policy could exacerbate Britain’s workforce problems down the road, as it could lead to a “gold rush” of workers retiring should they win the election, in an effort by people to cash in before they’re whacked with new taxes.
The budget polling cited by Prof Sir John also shows most voters back the new announcement on childcare for one and two-year-olds, though only 26 percent of those polled said they believe the budget will help with the cost of living.
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