Public divided over benefit squeeze

George OsborneThe public is divided over George Osborne's squeeze on benefits, according to a poll.

Some 43% disagree with the Chancellor's decision to raise most benefits and tax credits by only 1% - less than the rate of inflation - over the next three years, the ComRes survey for The Independent found.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

Less than half - 49% - agreed with the move announced in this month's Autumn Statement amid continued bad news on the state of the public finances.

A majority of Labour voters (54%) and Liberal Democrat supporters (65%) oppose the squeeze. Most Tory voters (69%) back it.

The findings will hearten Labour, which will oppose the move when it comes before the Commons.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Ed Miliband described it as a "tax on strivers" and said it would hit working families relying on tax credits.

He told the Prime Minister: "The reality is in the third year of your Government, more children are going hungry and more families are relying on food banks.

"Isn't it a serious indictment of your government's values that while lower and middle-income families are being hit, at the same time you are giving an average £107,000 tax cut to people earning over £1 million a year."

The Prime Minister said: "What is out of touch is denying the fact we had a deficit, left by your government, that we have had to deal with. We have been able to do it at the same time as cutting taxes for the poorest in our country, increasing child tax credits and actually freezing the council tax to help those families.

"When it comes to the top rate of tax let me tell you: the richest in our country will pay more in tax under every year of this government than any year of your government."
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