What Lib Dem members say about Coalition policies on the economy, shares-for-rights and cutting Council Tax relief

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

61% support — with reservations — Coalition’s economic policies

LDV asked: The UK economy recorded growth of +1.0% in the third quarter of 2012, officially bringing the recession to an end. However, many economists including the governor of the Bank of England have warned that recovery will be a slow, faltering process. Which of these is closest to your view:

    61% – The Coalition Government’s economic policies, though not perfect, are the best option available for sustained economic growth in the UK in the long-term

    32% – The Coalition Government’s economic policies have been mistaken, contributing to the UK’s double-dip recession, and will mean the recovery is more painful than it needed to be

    8% – Don’t know

By an almost 2:1 majority Lib Dem members back the Coalition’s economic policies — though not without reservations. A sizeable one-third, however, believe the Coalition has been mistaken, jeopardising the UK’s recovery. It’s worth remembering that Lib Dem members in previous surveys have backed a ‘new approach’ to boosting economic growth, broadly continuing with public spending cuts but investing in capital infrastructure.

Here’s a sample of your views:

The coalition government policies have aided growth, but they are not the best option available. However, neither have they contributed to the double-dip

Our lack of investment in areas with economic multipliers i.e education and infrastructure is worrying but the rate of cutting has been fine.

I’m in between the two options; but I think more could have been done much faster for building, the voluntary sector could have been better protected and not enough was done to examine new ways of achieving the goals implicit in services.

BUT – could do so much better. And recent policy strands being floated suggest policy will get worse not better. Our influence seems to be waning fast.

They should use the low borrowing rates to invest in the future. All it is good at the moment is helping people with tracker mortgages and destroying peoples savings.

92% of Lib Dems oppose Osborne’s shares-for-rights scheme

LDV asked: In his speech to the Conservative party conference, George Osborne announced a new equity ownership scheme, targeted at small companies. It would offer employees shares in their business (from £2,000 to £50,000, Capital Gains Tax free) in return for giving up certain employment rights. This will not apply to existing employees, but both established companies and new start-ups can choose to offer only this new type of contract for new hires. Some key protections like those against discrimination will remain as well as the wide range of reasons for unfair dismissal, such as refusing Sunday work. What is your view?

    5% – I support the proposed new scheme

    27% – I support the proposed new scheme but only if it is entirely voluntary for employees to opt in to

    65% – I oppose the proposed new scheme

    4% – Don’t know

Despite Vince Cable’s best efforts here on LDV to persuade Lib Dems that George Osborne’s shares-for-rights scheme is a good ‘un, the view of members is clear-cut: two-thirds oppose it outright, and a further quarter would only support it if it were truly voluntary for all employees to be able to opt in. Just 1-in-20 party members support the scheme as proposed. Here’s a sample of your views:

I am totally opposed to this scheme. It will affect many young and economically unaware people who will only discover the value of the ‘certain employment rights’ they gave up much later when it is too late to do anything about it.

If a company is going to make someone redundant, it’s likely that this is because the company isn’t doing so well, what sort of cushion is shares in a struggling company?

There is no way of making it entirely voluntary for employees to opt in, when the job market is this thin. Also the scheme doesn’t even work – the people who would make pernicious claims have plenty of other legislation to make them under anyway – only people who would be making legitimate claims would suffer.

Employees should have the opportunity to buy into the company they work for and they should not have to give up other rights to do so.

Wider ownership is a good thing but it’s not a quid pro quo for employment rights

2:1 majority of Lib Dems opposed to Council Tax relief cut

LDV asked: As part of the Coalition Government’s existing welfare cuts, Council Tax relief is being reduced and local authorities are being given the power to set their own eligibility criteria from April 2013. The Government has earmarked £100m – a quarter of the amount it had hoped to save in the first year of the scheme’s operation – for councils that promise to limit the sums poorer people must pay to around 8.5% of the full Council Tax rate. However, half of councils are proposing to set the minimum payment at 20% of the full Council Tax or more, while about another quarter plan to set it at between 10-20%. What is your view?

      28% – I support the Coalition’s proposals on Council Tax benefit

      48% – I oppose the Coalition’s proposals on Council Tax benefit

      24% – Don’t know<

    Though Lib Dems oppose the measure by an almost 2:1 majority interestingly 24% said ‘Don’t know’, which suggests that, at least for now, this issue is below the radar of many — though not Lib Dem peers. Here’s a sample of your views…

    Once again it is the poorest being asked to bail out the rich who got us into the mess and still are not sharing the pain sufficiently.

    I think this is going to get very messy – Labour run authorities will do everything in their power to make sure the poorest will pay the maximum possible – Blaming it on the coalition, while they spend excessivley in my opinion

    As far as I see it this means more decision making is being devolved to local councils – localism in action?

    The proposals to decentralise CT benefit, while at the same time dictating how it should be decentralised with certain ring-fences is a dangerous combination.

    Devolution shouldn’t be a cost-saving measure, but done because it’s a good idea in itself.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th and 31st October.
  • 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.

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8 Comments

  • Peter Watson 15th Nov '12 - 10:25pm

    The question over the economy seems biased towards generating a headline suggesting support for the government’s policies since it forces a binary choice between the economic policy being completely wrong or the economic policy being sort-of-okay but could be better.
    Why was there no option to say “I agree unreservedly with the coalition’s economic policies” to distinguish between genuine support of the government’s approach and reluctant support of a least-worst option?

  • Come on, Peter, this is the real world – a world of difficult choices. Who ever agrees “unreservedly” with anything?

  • Peter Watson 16th Nov '12 - 8:40am

    @Stephen @Denis
    My grumble is more to do with the wording of the options than the nature of the binary choice.
    If the choice were simply “support” / “oppose” then we could have the usual debate about how willing any supporters really are. The choice here seems to be “mostly support” / “completely oppose”; if it were posed the other way round as “I support government economic policy”” / “I don’t much like it but it’s the best we could realistically achieve, clearing up Labour’s mess, etc.” then I would expect the vote to be the other way round.
    In any of these types of questions, I would probably prefer 4 options, e.g. (dis)approve strongly, (dis)approve a bit, with no middle sitting-on-the-fence response.
    I accept that in a real election people will be forced to make a binary choice and the two sides will make excuses for why it went for or against them. But in opinion polling it is important (and we have the opportunity) to have information about why people are making their choices. In a example like this I think it is particularly important since it allows the impression to be given that we now support the policies against which we argued in 2010.

  • Peter Watson 16th Nov '12 - 10:38am

    @Stephen Tall
    The yes/no member polls reported here do tend to generate more heat than light. :-)
    But I would contend that an opinion poll of the issues debated on this site need not be (and probably should not be) restricted to a binary choice, since the purpose of such a poll should be to provide as much information as possible about people’s opinions, their likely actions based upon those opinions, and how the party should respond. If we are debating what people meant when they chose an option then the poll has not been as useful as it should be.
    I also think that the reporting of yes/no polling does add weight to the impression that Lib Dems are unable to hold fast to our principles since it lumps together the drivers who think we are following the right policies with the passengers who would rather go in a different direction but accept that they don’t have that choice at the moment.

  • John Carlisle 16th Nov '12 - 3:13pm

    Does the 92% against the shares-for-rights that Vince Cable has endorsed indicate the Vince is out of touch with the LibDems, or that he really does not understand micro-economics – or both?

  • Some people used to say that we had a two party system in this country – a BINARY choice between Labour and the Tories!!! Is that right??

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