ComRes tonight

John Rentoul tells us there is a ComRes poll on its way tonight. I’m off out, so won’t be updating till later, but feel free to discuss it here when it arrives.

UPDATE: the topline figures, with changes from the last ComRes poll, are CON 41%(-3), LAB 30%(+2), LDEM 17%(nc).

The poll shows a shift back towards Labour from the Conservatives – but this isn’t necessarily significant: the weighting in the poll was more pro Labour. This poll was weighted to to targets of Con 18%, Lab 23%, Ldem 11%, the previous one was weighted to Con 19%, Lab 21%, Ldem 13%.

That aside, this poll really does bring all five of the regular pollsters into line with each other, with the Conservatives on 41-42% and Labour on 30%-32%. Only the reported level of support for the Liberal Democrats varies between the companies.

On other questions, 39% of people were optimistic about the economy. 39% agreed with the statement that “I expect the economy will start showing signs of improvement soon”. 48% agreed that “David Cameron has what it takes to be a good prime minister”.

There was also a “are you a selfish bastard question?” Unsurprisingly, 83% people didn’t say they were selfish bastards and claimed that they would “make significant changes to the way I live to help prevent global warming or climate change”. Doing things to help the environment (and giving to charity) are both areas where people tend to give what they perceive as the answer they “should” give, rather than the truth. Populus gave some good examples back in November 2006 when the percentages of people who told them they recycled all their stuff and only bought low energy lightbulbs were flatly contradicted by the actual figures.

87 Responses to “ComRes tonight”

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  1. Jack,

    “The normal bleat against govt employees taxation has totally ignored that they have paid into the schemes over many, many years…”

    One major flaw in your argument. Most public-sector pensions schemes are not only defined benefit – they are also non-contributory. So in what way have the employees “paid” into a pension fund in the way that private sector employers did – only to have those funds plundered by Brown with his much touted “cut” in ACT ?

    Second major flaw – since the money to pay the public-sector employees has to be raised from the private sector by way of taxation, it is outrageous to sugest that public-sector employees somehow have greater rights to the assets purchased from the proceeds of taxation.

    If you cannot see that it is unfair for public-sector employees to be insulated from the pensions misery the government has deliberately inflicted on the private sector through its taxation policies you need to go back to first principles and understand the origins of wealth and the purpose of government and taxation. Hint, public sector workers used to be called civil servants.

  2. @Ivan – You mean the adverts that say “The police promise to listen to your concerns, act on these concerns, and then keep you informed of the progress they’ve made” i.e. what they should have been doing anyway.

    To me, this positively suggests that the police haven’t been listening to concerns, nor acting on them, nor keeping people informed, on the grounds that if they had been doing, then they wouldn’t need to tell people that’s now what they intend to do.

    I wonder how much money the campaign has cost. More than Tony McNulty’s parents house, I suspect.

  3. When was a teacher doctor nurse or policeman ever defined as a civil servant?

    Public sector workers pay tax as well, and the private sector would not exist in any recognisably modern form without the public sector.

    An awful lot of companies are defined as private when all their work is out-sourced public-sector.

    to turn from this tedious argument (has anyone ever changed any-one else’s mind on this site?) to the POLLS, the 17 % that worries you Leslie are probably those who believe that human activity is not responsible for climate change. So they’re not necessarily selfish at all.

  4. “You see my point. Basically state employees have paid for their pensions. ”

    No-I don’t
    No-they havent.

    Salary related pensions in the Private Sector require by law a constant review by an Actuary of the age profile of the fund members, the forward cost of their pensions & enhancements ( early retirement/widows benefits/indexation/etc.). and the income stream generated by employers & employees contributions-and crucially forward interest rates.

    All of these variables produce the uncertainty of investment risk for the main funder-the employing company.This together with the ever increasing cost of funding salary related pension promises has caused the Private Sector to dump around 90% them & replace them with Defined Contributions by Employer & Employee into a fund, the investment risk of which falls 100% on the pensioner to be,

    In the Public Sector-where no “Fund” is accumulated, and no periodic Actuarial Valuation done, it is not possible to say that state employees have “paid for” their pensions.No one has evaluated the cost of the promise, therefore contributions do not reflect the cost of the promise, and a separate indentifiable fund does not exist from which to pay the final pension. Therefore it is paid by future taxpayers-whatever the cost.

    The size of the fund required now to provide such pensions is independently calculated at around
    £ 1000 Billion.

    In the Public Sector, where a seperate Fund does exist-like the Local Government Pension Scheme-on the face of it we might imagine that the employers would be similarly constrained by affordability on behalf of their council tax payers.

    However a recent independent look at LGPS which serves 3.7 million former & present employees of our 81 local John Ralfe ( The Times yesterday) shatters that illusion. It says :-

    a) The Actuarial cost of the LGPS pension promise is 24% of salary-when compared with current combined emper/empee conributions ,the average council employee is provided with a 16% of salary gain over his private sector counterpart.
    b) LGPS fund deficit is now £100 billion
    c) Neither individual local Authorities, nor Central Government recognise the LGPS deficit, and have no plans to address it.

    ..and finaly & crucialy:-

    d) The LGPS is guaranteed by the Government, meaning that it’s trustees bear no investment risk!!

    ie LGPS it’s just another Public Sector un-funded Pension Scheme.

    So-when Council Tax Payers get too fed up of paying 20% & more more of their Council Tax for Public Sector Pensions, the jolly old Taxpayer will have to cough up.

    Public Sector pension promises are unaffordable-if employees had to pay a fair share there would be uproar from them.

    One day Taxpayers may decide they don’t want to be dumped on anymore on with the cost of this massive perk.

  5. From the FT two days ago :-

    “The Treasury remains in acute denial about the real cost of public sector pensions and the total liabilities.

    A proper public debate on the affordability and sustainability of public sector pensions, including for local government employees, requires the government to take the first step of being accurate and transparent about the underlying numbers”

    This issue may be tedious for some-or even too complex for the poor voter to understand-but it will not go away.

    The more politicians ignore the FT’s plea, the worse the problem gets and the more understanding voters will acquire.

  6. John TT,

    “… and the private sector would not exist in any recognisably modern form without the public sector. ”

    I fear you have that the wrong way round.

    If there were no public sector, then the private sector would still exist – as it did before the state assumed control for the provision of swathes of services which previously did not exist, or were supplied either by charitable foundations or – the private sector. The nature of the private sector would not be materially different – though it might well be substantially larger !

    On the other hand, if the private sector did not exist, then there would be no wealth generated to pay the taxes needed to fund the public sector. In which case, the publci sector could not “exist in any recognisably modern form “.

    As to the first part of that sentence…”Public sector workers pay tax as well”…

    Taxes paid from tax do not increase the overall amount available to fund public services, still less do they create wealth, they merely recirculate it.

    Put another way, why not exempt public sector employees from tax and just cut their income accordingly ? Think of the admin costs saved.

  7. Colin. as a private sector taxpayer, I don’t agree, but my question as regards the site is “What is the best length of non-poll-related post?” And if it isn’t to do with the geeky calculations (which i enjoy reading!), what’s the optimum level of humour?

  8. Paul H-J – I’d written my last before reading your last – therefore I have to say yours is a post I thoroughly approve of! I still don’t agree, but at least you made me smile.

  9. “I don’t agree”

    With what john?

    “geeky calculations ”

    Ah-“geeky” again-I can see that we must all avoid anything which offends your geekiphobia.
    -or is it that “Geeky ” & “Tedious ” are synonyms for “something I really don’t want to discuss” in johnttspeak?

  10. The government ( and all it’s predisserors) are well aware of the theoretical deficiet that exists and aren’t really bothered by it, for the same reason that they can increase borrowing to more than three times what they had said little more than a year ago would be ruinous.

    Governments can sustain deficets that private companies can’t because they can borrow or increase taxation. If a government is short of cash it can ut up tax and people have to pay. If a company is short of cash and it puts up prices the public don’t have to buy.

    That’s why there aredifferent rules.

    The pension crisis isn’t really about Public v private anyway. It’s much more about demographics.

    When people mostly started work at 15 finished at 65 and died at 70 they worked 10 years for every one they retired so you cou;ld afford a contirbuatary pension and state pensions from general taxation were affordable.

    Now that we tend to start work at 20 work want to work till 60 and die at 80 the ration of work to tetirement isn’t 10 to 1 it’s 2 to 1, so pensions private or public are unaffordable or just won’t let us retire in comfort

    Advanced western economies have to find a way round that and it won’t be easy. It’s particularly hard for thoes at the bottom who even if they do save can’t save enough and if they rent rather than own they will see their hosuing costs eat in to their incomes year on year.

    We can of course help these people with more generous state pensions but as their numbers grow in relation to the working population so the same demographic kicks in.

    One way out which might work but would be painful would be the gradual transformation of NI contributions to Penion payments. Where over time the 10% or so each paid by employers and employees when in to a personal pension pot.

    The mechanics of it wouldn’t be insurmountable and Private and public employees would effectibvely be using the same national system ( You could also give people the right to move their pot from the public fund to a private one).

    The real hard bit is finding new ways to pay for the things that ENIC and NIC’s pay for now from the basic state pension to the NHS.


  11. No further devolution. In fact lets end the devolutionary experiment. It failed and is only now a platform for nationalists to spout their lies.

    Good old calam shall sort the mess out in north Britain, but hoe is looking to wales?

  12. Colin – I like geeky, I don’t like tedious.

  13. Leslie,
    “it’s somewhat scary that 17% of the population are openly proud to be considered selfish bastards”

    JohnTT has already pointed it out that most of the 17% might just not believe in ‘man made’ global warming. I am one of them. However if the question had been about recycling or preservation of the countryside etc I would have given a positive response.

    I have mentioned this to YouGov in the past actually. It is irritating that questions on Global Warming are always asked as though it is an unquestionable truth.

    For me it’s like asking “how often do you pray” without giving an option for “do not believe in God”.

  14. “The pension crisis isn’t really about Public v private anyway. It’s much more about demographics”

    Rubbish-its about comparative benefits, comparative contributions, comparative costs -& affordability-or if you like fairness.

    If you don’t understand the problem-just look up some annuity rates & compare say Joint Life at 65/65 with -say Joint Life at 55/55-the latter being compulsory retirement date for Police up to Sergeant .

    By the way -the Police also get 2/60ths pa of service after 20 years-try finding that in the private sector.

    Must stop now-john’s Geekometer has just exploded.

  15. Dean,

    Whether you like it or not Devolution has a democratic mandate in two countries.

    If you want to just scrap things you don’t like maybe you should consider getting yourself a comfy top job in a dictatorship.


  16. Colin – I like geekiness, I don’t like tediousness. How much more clearly can I put it ? How about “And if it isn’t to do with the geeky calculations (which i enjoy reading!), ” ?

    At least you’re bringing a bit more humour into it, but Colin, no-one at all in the electorate apart from you is in the slightest bit influenced at the ballot box by who gets what in retirement from which sector and when.

    I don’t agree with you because your argument doesn’t make sense. Pensions have never been about fairness, any more than life assurance. It’s all about betting that your life will last longer than the average pensioner. I like the idea of a national pension pot scheme, but it won’t be “fair”

  17. Colin,

    If you want fairness how about people being free to enter into a contractual agreement with an employer and for the employer to be free to offer the pension arrangements it wants.

    Again this is a case of people claiming it’s a disgrace the way democratic governments do things that the majority of the public support.

    For more than 50 years we have been running this system and it’s had broad public support, be it private company pensions, public service pensions and the state pension.

    Now that the demographic pressure is building the private sector has been the one to crack first and we as a nation (like everyone else) should address the problem.

    But the problem isn’t the public sector pensioners, it’s that we’re not working long enough to cover retirement costs, be that individuals buying annuities or Governments using current expenditure to cover current liabilities.

    As to the myths that float about, it may not have been helpful but it wasn’t the government scraping pension tax credits that caused the problem, people who were getting 40% tax relief through dividends were being subsidised by the basic rate tax payer who wasn’t eligible, how is that fair?

    It might not have worked, but the intent to try to up investment by making high dividends less attractive to institutional investors like the pension funds, was worth trying.

    There were plenty of firms in the eighties handing out big dividends to share holders while under investing in their own pension funds.

    It’s odd that it’s the very industry that was attacking the loss of relief for higher rate tax payers is the same one that has effectively screwed up the global economy.

    This private v public argument is like people in the water beside the sinking Titanic saying;

    ” It’s all the fault of the people in the life boats that I am getting wet”,

    While all the time ignoring the iceberg. You might want to blame the Captian or the shipping line, but lay off the other passengers.


  18. anthoney- why is my comments on public/privet pension be moderated by your computer system

  19. John TT,

    Glad I could make you smile.

    On your last post, I have to agree that ultimately any collective pension arrangement cannot be “fair” if one looks purely at what each takes out vs what each puts in. Even defined contribution arrangements may fail that test if the “pot” must be used to purchase an annuity. But then, we should acknowledge that life – and death – is not fair.

    As Peter Cairns points out, the real issue is one of demographics. We therefore need a proper discussion as to what, as a society, we consider to be a reasonable balance between our working lives and our expected retirement, and what is the proper way to ensure those in retirement have sufficient income to live the remainder of their lives in dignity ?

    The MIG was supposed to achieve that, but as with so many welfare benefits, it became too complex and corrupted by counter-intuitive rules on savings that not only did it not deliver security and dignity, it introduced poor value for money for the taxpayer.

    As you pointed out some way above, some issues are far more complex than they at first appear. Pensions undoubtedly fall into that category.

    But, as I said earlier, the public often react to complex questions with a gut reply. One of those “gut” drivers is the perceived imbalance between the state of pensions in the private sector, and the apparent protection from those problems enjoyed by public sector employees. The minutiae of the exact calculation and funding of public sector pensions is not the issue, it is is the generalised perception that matters, and a truly rational debate cannot be held unless the need to address that perceived unfairness is acknowledged.

    As we have now strayed so far from the origins of this thread – perhaps I may bring us back on track by suggesting that if any party were to propose an open and honest review of all state pension arrangements, and how these interact with private savings, that might create a clear event which would cause the polls to finally budge from the stasis into which they seem to have fallen these past few weeks.

  20. @Stuart Gregory: is a ‘privet pension’ for someone who works in a hedge fund?

  21. Peter Cairns,
    “For more than 50 years we have been running this system and it’s had broad public support, be it private company pensions, public service pensions and the state pension”

    I would not have a problem with a couple of million people in ‘real’ jobs getting a slightly better pension than I do. However In the last few years the public sector has exploded.

    I now find that vast armies of government workers (many of whom by the way do not have broad public support) are getting a better pension than I could ever hope for without paying more than I have.

    Very unfair. I suspect it will be a growing vote loser for Labour as the weeks and months go by.

    John TT,
    “It’s all about betting that your life will last longer than the average pensioner”

    I bet my life would last a lot longer if, like most public sector workers, I could retire early and look forward to bags of cash ad infinitum.

  22. Peter,

    “Devolution has a democratic mandate in two countries”

    So which of the three devolved assemblies lacks a democratic mandate ? Scotland, Wales or N Ireland ?


  23. @Ivan

    To say the public sector has ‘exploded’ is just not true. Numbers employed are virtually identical now to what they were 4 years ago, and are still less than they were in 1992.

  24. “open and honest review”- None of them would know where to begin, or whom to ask where to begin.

    You seem to be in favour of more facts being laid before the public in a clear, unspun way. Just what i’ve been yelling about in a most ungeeky fashion for ages.

  25. That was addresseds at Paul H-j before Ivan delivered his facts up. A

    Armies of young retired public sector non-workers with thier bags of cash! Its DIGUSTING I tell yer!

  26. Re Selfish bastards.

    I was only using Anthony’s terminology, not commenting on the truth or otherwise of the man-made global warming issue. However, since that’s come up, let’s at least agree that the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly that a) global warming is happening and b) human activity has contributed to the unprecedented levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. The debate should be about the extent to which we can and should do anything about it, rather than spending money on other pressing needs such as mitigating the worst effects.

    I can well understand therefore that some of the 17% will take the view that personal lifestyle changes are not going to be anywhere near enough to make an impact, so why bother. The growth of industrialisation, population and increasingly living standards means that anything we do in the UK is going to be irrelevant apart from giving us the moral high ground, and the hectoring voices of George Monbiot et al probably do more harm than good in this debate.

    However I suspect that the majority of the 17% simply aren’t prepared to make sacrifices for anything environmental, including recycling and protecting our natural resources.

  27. Slightly off-topic but still about statistics so hopefully acceptable, am I the only person who finds the reporting of inflation figures bizarre?

    The RPI and CPI are calculated retrospectively, based on the previous twelve months. So reporting the current inflation rate as RPI or CPI is just plain wrong. – a rolling three-month figure would be more accurate.

    Furthermore, speculation on the future trends seem to ignore items that we already know will drop out of the calculation as the year progresses. So for example, the fall in RPI to zero in February is largely the result of a 2.5% drop in mortgage interest payments. Unless this continues, they will drop out of the calculation in due course and the RPI will (other things being equal) rise again. That will no doubt be reported as a “rise in inflation” when it will be nothing of the sort!

  28. Paul,

    “So which of the three devolved assemblies lacks a democratic mandate ? Scotland, Wales or N Ireland ?”

    Well spotted that man, it is of course three not two, it’s only the English who aren’t allowed a choice.

    (Retires having lit the blue touch paper)


  29. John TT
    Making me out to be some kind of old fashioned sergeant-major type is perhaps an admisson you have no coherent argument I suspect. Being as I’m in my early 30’s and work in healthcare it’s also a bit wide of the mark.

    When Labour came to power in ’97 there were 5.2 million in the public sector now there are 5.8 million and rising. You may go back before then if you wish to before some of the old dinosaur industries got privatised but I think you’ll agree that’s cheating.

    Not only are there more but they are also more likely to be nicely overpaid (I know I have benefitted personally from public sector largesse).

    It’s not made up, it’s not right wing nuttery, it’s not even jealousy. It’s just a fact. Why do so many on the left want to defend such blatant waste?

    Surely you would rather the money was spent on all the poor kids in ‘poverty’ you believe exist out there?

  30. “If you want fairness how about people being free to enter into a contractual agreement with an employer and for the employer to be free to offer the pension arrangements it wants.”

    Yep-that’s certainly how it works in the Private Sector -where the Customer is the final arbiter of all company costs, including pension costs.

    In the Public Sector, the Employer has no such constraint-tax payers will fund what the Employer decides.

    So far so good-the taxpayers are voters too & can act like Customers every so often.

    But where the Pension rights of the latter group of employees are so much better than the former, that is not “fair”.

    It is of course for the Taxpayer to decide , when he dons his Voter’s hat ,whether the burden placed on him to perpetuate that disparity has become too unreasonable or unfair.

    My hunch is that the Voter/Taxpayer will do so with increasing regularity.

  31. Ivan

    I don’t want to get into a row about the figures – the ones you quote now are accurate. My point was that you said the public sector had ‘exploded’ in the last few years, and I don’t think many people would count an 11% increase over 12 years as that.

    I’d like to see any (non-anecdotal) evidence for your assertion that they are ‘more likely to be nicely overpaid’ too. Otherwise I have to conclude that it is indeed (a) made up and (b) right wing nuttery…

  32. Peter

    Re your blue touch paper – this had me spluttering all the way home ! (with mirth I hasten to add)

    Ironically, I had typed up a para about the English being denied a choice for my original post, but decided to delete it before submitting as being too provocative.

    Of course the reality is that if ever the English are given the opportunity to voice their views on more government, they are likely to give a resounding “no” – as the north-east did in the only consultation on English devolution.

    This explains why the poor Celtic fringe has been denied the opportunity to affirm its faith in the EU consititution, since we all know that if the promised referendum were held, those damned English would haul up the drawbridge and send johnny foreigner back to Brussels with a flea in each ear.

    Bonne nuit


  33. ChrisC,

    Just to bury this. Some non-anecdotal evidence (all from National Statistics):

    “In the year to January, 2009, pay growth (including bonuses) in the private sector stood at 1.4 per cent compared with 4.0 per cent for the public sector.”

    Average gross weekly earnings (including bonus and overtime);

    Public- 412.7

    Average hours worked per week (including overtime);

    Public- 36

    Add that to the rather nice pensions they get and I think you’ll agree that they get a better deal. No spin. Just fact.

  34. NHS staff, police officers and teachers were all told yesterday that Government has agreed to honour increases of more than 2 per cent a year until 2011. – on the day the Retail Prices Index, which is used to set pay rises, fell to zero for the first time in 49 years.
    Meanwhile, senior civil servants earning up to £200,000 a year are pressing for a 3 per cent increase in the pay pot used to boost their salaries.

    Unions are also seeking a ‘substantial’ rise for local government workers.

    John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: ‘The public sector is at present an entirely recession-free

    Last week, official figures showed that 30,000 jobs were created in the public sector last year, while 105,000 were lost in the private sector.

  35. Nothing about state pensions Colin? 5% uprating this year, and a guarateed rise of a minimum 2% floor.

    BTW Ivan, aren’t Sgt-Majors in the public sector? i wouldn’t put you in their bracket -being in your early thirties and “in healthcare” that puts you close to a retirement and bags of cash to spend on the on-line bingo. Unless of course you work in private health, in which case you shouldn’t have time to address us at that time of day.

    Socail work is a great example of an area of the public sector that perfectly intelligent committed people feel harangued by the right-wing nutcase press and reasership to the extent that morale is nil.

    As I said earlier, the private sector would be dead without the public sector. Demonising is plain silly.

  36. “Nothing about state pensions Colin? 5% uprating this year, and a guarateed rise of a minimum 2% floor. ”

    Fair comment john-strange times on the “inflation” front.

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