The majority of the Welsh public would back the Assembly getting tax and borrowing powers, according to an ICM survey for the Silk Commission, which is looking at the future of devolution in Wales. Most people thought it would make the Welsh Government more responsible for its decisions if it had to raise some of its money through taxation. Of all major taxes, the idea of a Welsh income tax was the most popular.
Welsh Government should have power over the level of income tax 64%
Welsh Government should not have the power over the level of income tax 33%
Don't know 3%
Enthusiasm depended on whether tax would go up or down. 63% thought devolving income tax would be a good thing if it led to a lower rate but 64% thought it a bad thing if the Welsh Government set a higher rate. Overall, there was more support for higher taxes and public spending than cutting services to bring down taxes but most people would prefer to leave things as they are.
Higher public spending and taxes 25%
Lower public spending and taxes 14%
Spending and taxes both as now 58%
Don't know 3%
The Silk Commission have been left with a dilemma. There is public support for devolving taxation powers in principle but with a clear preference for not having any difference between the Welsh Government's tax rates and those set by the Treasury in London.
We must come up with a package of recommendations likely to command a wide degree of support. While the results show clear support for the devolution of tax and borrowing powers, we must be mindful as a Commission of the concerns they also reveal. It was also clear from the report that there is a limited understanding of taxation issues.
On the Welsh Government gaining borrowing powers, opinion was more clear cut. 80% believed that it should be able to borrow money to spend on transport and other infrastructure projects. Two in three people wanted the total amount of borrowing to be jointly decided by the Welsh and UK Governments.