Our survey says Lib Dems want a 50p top-rate of tax – but will they vote for it at conference?

by Stephen Tall on September 16, 2013

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. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

56% of Lib Dem members back a 50p rate of top-rate tax

As I type, the party is debating its tax policies. It’s highly likely the Lib Dems will vote to extend its popular tax-cuts for the low-paid package by lifting still further the personal allowance so that no-one paid the minimum wage has to pay any tax. But the party is also re-visiting the issue of the 50p top-rate of tax, ditched as party policy back in 2006. Revived by Gordon Brown before the 2010 election, it was then half-killed in George Osborne’s 2012 omnishambles budget. So we asked members for your views…

Currently the top-rate of income tax paid by UK taxpayers is 45% for income over £150,000 per year. Do you think this rate should be maintained, or do you think it should be increased to 50% for income over £150,000 per year (so long as an independent review concludes such an increase would raise more revenue)?

    35% – Maintain it at 45%

    56% – Increase it to 50%

    6% – Neither

    3% – Don’t know

According to our survey, therefore, the Lib Dems back a 50p top-rate of tax by a significant margin, 56% to 35%. Party president Tim Farron has hinted he’ll vote for the option, as indeed he told me he would when I interviewed him earlier this year for Ad Lib: “Cutting the top-rate was a stupid thing to do. It probably raised up to £3bn a year. We should pledge to restore the 50p rate at the next election. It’s not enough to be fair, you have to be seen to be fair.”

The party leadership has deliberately soft-pedalled on this debate, recognising it can’t afford to be seen fighting activists on every issue and focusing instead on this morning’s economy motion. There is no question, though, that they want to see the 45p rate maintained and do not want to see 50p in the 2015 manifesto. Will the Lib Dem conference which has, so far, backed the leadership on every contentious issue agree? We’ll see within the hour…

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 696 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 13th September.
  • 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 offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • 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 editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.