The independent research centre, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), today launched a new website providing “careful, objective, accurate analysis” of party campaign promises ahead of the General Election in May.
The new site aims to provide detailed analysis of public finances, public spending, living standards, earnings, inequality, tax, welfare, pensions, education and productivity over the past five years as well as vetting claims made by each of the political parties as they jockey for position ahead of the vote.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The deficit has been halved as a proportion of national income since 2009 — 10, but at £90 billion it is more than twice as large as was originally planned by this government.
- The overall effect of tax and benefit changes implemented since January 2010 has been to hit the richest hardest, to take benefits away from the poorer half of the income distribution, and largely protect those on middle and upper middle incomes. Pensioners have also largely been protected while families with children have lost out.
- Unprotected departmental spending will have been cut by 20% by 2015 — 16 (that is services other than health, schools and overseas aid). That includes (but is not limited to) critical services such as the police, the army, the judiciary and welfare as well as energy and climate change projects, transport, the arts and local government services.
- Mean real earnings have fallen by 5.7% since 2010 and are 8.6% below their 2008 levels. But the proportion of people in work (73%) is now back to its pre-recession level and well above the 2011 low point of 70%. Numbers in work have grown by 1.6 million since Q2 2010.
- The impact of tuition fee hikes have been less severe than many feared — but they have equally been less beneficial for government finances than forecast. As the IFS puts it, the introduction of annual fees of up to £9,000 for higher education appears to have had little impact on levels of participation. The new funding system, though, looks likely to save government relatively little in the long run.
The site will be updated to include more of the IFS’ research as well as fresh analysis as the election build-up intensifies. Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, comments:
“Understanding these facts, what they mean for policy, and exactly what the different parties’ policies are, should be crucial to the choices people make on 7th May. We hope that the research we have done at the IFS, and new analysis we will publish over the coming months, will help inform those choices.”
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