British Conservative politician and head of government policy under David Cameron, Sir Oliver Letwin, said on the Today programme that taxes should increase to fund better public services.

Letwin called for the government to consider increasing taxes so that it will be able to fund investment for public services to help schools, social care and the NHS. He said: “It may well be, in one way or another, a large number of people will have to pay a little more tax if we are going to maintain the trend towards reduced deficits and yet spend a little more on the crucial public services that do need more spent on them.” He stressed that investing in social care and not pay rises for staff should be a priority. 

While the Conservatives are typically the party of low taxes, Letwin explained that taxes “raised in a careful way without provoking massive problems for families,” should not only increase for the top 5% earners, as Labour pledged, but also for middle earners.  Letwin added: “Those of us who are lucky enough to have higher incomes will have to bear more one way or another the costs of any increase in public service expenditure. But I’m not at all suggesting you can restrict to only dealing with whatever Mr Corbyn defines as the very rich.”

Letwin said that he noticed that people had enough with austerity policies and that they were concerned about the underfunding of social services. This was the message that voters also sent in the general elections, according to him. “I talked to hundreds, around 3,000, of my electors face to face; I got the same sense from almost every colleague: people were much more concerned at this election about spending on schools, spending on health and social care – crucial public services which now seem to be under strain,” Letwin commented.

Higher taxes, less austerity

Support for ending austerity has increased as the public has less tolerance for it. The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey showed that social attitudes towards austerity and taxes have changed. Eight in 10 people said they wanted more funding for the NHS, and many others emphasised investment for schools and higher spending on the police. 48% said they wanted the government to increase spending on health, education and social benefits. The survey was conducted between June and November last year.

PMQs

A Labour amendment saying that the pay cap should go, is under review and there is a possibility that the 1% cap on public sector pay increases may be lifted later this year, according to the government. Labour has claimed the move to be a victory after the amendment to the Queen’s Speech about the cap to be lifted, is now under consideration by Theresa May. 

Corbyn sought to put more pressure on the government, after the general mood of the population is strongly against austerity. Corbyn said: “You can’t have safety and security on the cheap. It is plain to see that seven years of cuts to our emergency services has made us less safe. It’s time to make a change.” Conservative MPs have expressed their concerns about cutting spending in crucial areas and the lack of funding for public services. This, coupled with Theresa May’s recent £1bn deal with the DUP, is creating a series of further questions about the appearance and disappearance of magical money. 

Since there are many voices from both the Left and the Right that call for more spending and higher taxes, the government would have to be more open to change and radical reforms to eradicate social and economic inequalities.