DEBATE: Is it time to increase spending on public services, as the British Social Attitudes survey suggests?

People's Assembly Against Austerity Hold Demonstration And Festival
Attitudes on tax and spend follow a pendulum pattern (Source: Getty)

Is it time to increase spending on public services, as the British Social Attitudes survey suggests?

Ben Glover, a researcher at Demos, says YES.

The public is right – now is the time to spend more on public services.

After eight years of austerity, our hospitals, schools and councils are strained. New cash would relieve this pressure, delivering long-term improvements if doled out in return for reforms. Housing allowance and benefit caps, which have pushed some into homelessness and poverty, should be relaxed too.

To avoid deepening the deficit, revenues must be raised – but in Britain we tax too much of the good, too little of the bad.

For example, a land value tax would bring in money from those that have gained from inflated house prices, while a road usage tax, based on widely available GPS technology, would punish those that pollute the most and drive when our roads are busiest.

Public opinion is a sound check on spending. We clamour for cash after cutbacks and stinginess after splurges. Politicians should trust the public, and heed their call for a change of course.

Ben Glover, a researcher at Demos, says YES.

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Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, says NO.

The British Social Attitudes survey suggests that attitudes on tax and spend follow a pendulum pattern. Too many years of austerity, and voters start worrying about the state of schools and hospitals. Too many years of spending, and they suddenly notice the drain on their wallets.

But while there are many things we could spend more money on – an ageing population, the shrinking Armed Forces – there’s one great big problem: there’s no more money left. We’re still – even a decade later – trying to get borrowing under control, with plenty of austerity still pencilled in. And tax rates are high and getting higher.

Even those who complain bitterly about the state of the NHS complain equally bitterly about the cost of living, which becomes more of a problem the more taxes they pay.

The public may well want spending to rise. But if we’ve learned one thing in the past decade, it’s that we first need the growth to actually pay for it.

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City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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