EXCLUSIVE: Majority of Lib Dem members back Coalition’s benefits cap

by Stephen Tall on February 8, 2012

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 570 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

59% of Lib Dem members back benefits cap at £26,000 or lower

LDV asked: Under the Coalition government’s proposal the cap on benefits will apply to the total sum of all benefits a household receives, including income support, jobseekers allowance, child benefit and housing benefit. The government is setting the maximum at £26,000, the average earnings of a British family after tax. What do you think the maximum amount should be set at?

    0% – £10,000 per year or less
    2% – £15,000 per year or less
    10% – £20,000 per year or less
    5% – £23,000 per year or less
    42% – £26,000 per year or less
    4% – £28,000 per year or less
    4% – £30,000 per year or less
    1% – £35,000 per year or less
    1% – £40,000 per year or less
    25% – Not applicable, I don’t think there should be a maximum amount
    6% – Don’t know / No opinion

A plurality — 42% — of Lib Dem members back the Coalition’s £26,000 benefits cap, but interestingly a further 17% of our respondents would have gone further than the government: one-in-10 said the cap should have been £20,000 a year. Even so, this places Lib Dem members out of step with the party’s supporters. According to a YouGov poll, 31% of Lib Dem voters would set the cap at £20,000 or lower.

In total, 69% of Lib Dem members in our sample believed there should be a benefits cap. A significant minority, however — one-in-four of those surveyed — rejected the principle of a cap at all. There were a significant number of comments advocating regional variations for the cap in order to reflect the higher private rent costs for those living in London in particular.

However, 54% back Lords amendment to exclude child benefit from cap

LDV asked: The House of Lords voted against the government’s benefit cap, passing an amendment that will exclude child benefit from the £26,000 cap. This means that it would be possible for a family with children to receive more than £26,000 in benefits a year. Do you support or oppose this amendment to the Bill?

    54% – Support
    39% – Oppose
    7% – Don’t know / No opinion

A majority of Lib Dem members agreed with Paddy Ashdown (among other Lib Dem peers) who voted a fortnight ago to amend the Coalition’s benefits cap policy in this way. However, a large minority — four-in-10 members — rejected the Lords’ amendment, with many arguing that it would undermine the principle of the cap. Here’s a flavour of some of the comments received:

I think it’s definitely right to maintain child benefit as a separate entity. Visiting the sins of the parents (if sins they even be) upon the children is plain wrong.

Child Benefit has been around a lot longer than many other benefits. I think there should be a cap for child benefit, but it shouldbe seperate from the rest of the benefits

I would see a case for suppporting this amendment IF the figure of £26,000 without child benefit was reduced appropriately. £26,000 net of tax for a childless household is too much in my view compared to likely earnings for those in work.

I can see the arguments both ways, but when it comes down to it it isn’t the kids’ fault and they shouldn’t suffer.

Those who are responsible and only have the children they can afford to support should not subsidise those who have children that they cannot themselves afford.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 570 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 31st January and 4th February.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.