TheInstitute for Fiscal Studieshas attacked the spending plans of the UK’s two main parties, saying neither election manifesto “is a properly credible prospectus”. )
Paul Johnson, the director of the respected thinktank, noted that the Conservatives’ election manifesto in 2017 pledged more austerity and spending cuts, but in reality public service spending had gone up, and was due to be around £ 27 bn higher next year than implied by the manifesto. In fact, he said, it was closer to the 2017Laborpledge than the Tories’ own manifesto.
This time,the Conservatives are not promising any more spending cutsbut are not predicting any spending increases beyond those set out in September either. Their plans would leave public service spending excluding health still 14% lower in 2023 – 24 than it was in 2010 – 11. “No more austerity perhaps, but an awful lot of it baked in,” Johnson said.
TheConservativeshave pencilled in few tax changes beyond a small cut in national insurance contributions.
“If you think things are pretty much OK as they are, then you will like the Conservatives’ proposals for tax and spend. If you want big increases in taxation and spending then Labor and theLiberal Democratshave plenty to offer, ”Johnson said.
Turning to theLabor manifesto, he said Jeremy Corbyn’s party had reinforced its commitment to its current spending plans, raising them to £ 80 bn from £ 50 bn in 2017. On top of that,there is a £ 58 bn promise to Waspi women(Women Against State Pension Inequality), which he described as “extraordinary”.
Johnson said this spending pledge, to a group of people who were relatively well off on average, would far outstrip the additional sums earmarked for the “much bigger group of much poorer working age benefit recipients”.
Under Labor, investment spending would rise by £ 55 bn a year, up from £ 25 BN in 2017, and taxes by £ 80 bn , up from £ 50 bn. Both taxes and spending would rise to peacetime highs, and the national debt would increase by about 3% of national income.
With the Conservatives, the risk is that their promise to exit the Brexit transition period by the end of 2020 could mean something rather like a “no deal” outcome. “That would harm the economy and of course increase the debt and deficit.”
Summing up, Johnson said while there were some spending increases for health and education already promised, there was “essentially nothing new in the Conservatives’ manifesto ”.
“Labor, by contrast, want to change everything. Their vision is of a state with a far greater role than anything we have seen for more than 40 years. They would tax and spend more than ever before, putting in place a new universal welfare state with free childcare, free university, free personal care, free prescriptions and more besides; they would impose a swathe of new labor market regulations. ”
Johnson added: “In the face of such vast ambition from Labor, one should not forget that the Liberal Democrat manifesto is itself a radical document that would involve a decisive move away from the policies of the past decade.
“Rarely can a starker choice have been placed before the UK electorate.”