Call for greater transparency of public spending as ‘significant cuts’ revealed

2 May 17

Since the financial crisis there has been “significant cuts” to areas such as working age benefits and public order and safety, an Institute for Fiscal Studies report has found.

The UK’s public finances now compare “unfavourably” to other advanced economies, the think-tank’s analysis on the evolution of the public finances released today concluded.

This comes after the Public Administration and Constitution Affairs Committee called for the UK government accounts to be more transparent, in a report out last week.  

The committee recommended making costs for public services more accessible so citizens and politicians could judge if they were providing value for money.

Chair of PACAC Bernard Jenkin said: "Financial accountability lies at the heart of parliamentary sovereignty and of democratic government.

“Parliament can only be what Gladstone described it as - the real authoritative steward of the public finances - if the government improves the accounts."

The IFS report Two Parliaments Of Pain said slow growth and a weak recovery meant the UK had the 5th largest deficit out of 35 advanced economies and the 6th largest debt out of 26 advanced economies in 2016.

It also concluded tax rises and spending cuts totalling £15bn on top of those already planned by ministers will be needed if the government is to eliminate the UK's deficit by 2022.

The research institute said the 2008 crash led to a sharp reduction in national income and the subsequent recovery has been weak.

Official forecasts suggest that GDP per adult in 2022 will be 18% lower than it would have been had it grown by 2% a year since 2008 – the expected rate of growth at that time.

Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IFS and author of the report, said although areas such as working age benefits and public order and safety had experienced “significant cuts” public spending remained slightly above its pre-crisis share of the economy.

“This is due to persistently poor economic growth, and an increase in the share of national income devoted to health, pensioner benefits and overseas aid,” he explained.

The PACAC report suggested unit costs for each public service should be easily accessible to allow parliamentarians to better scrutinise the government’s commitments and hold it to account for its policies.

It also recommended: “The accounts include a statement which sets out ministerial promises of funding and saving and what was achieved against that.”

The performance information in the accounts should also be independently audited, the PACAC added.

The IFS report showed the UK’s deficit has fallen considerably since its peak in 2009–10. It has returned to pre-crisis levels, although this is still above the UK’s pre-crisis average.

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, said the Conservatives had failed to delivery on “promising to balance the books by 2015”.

Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor, said today’s report showed the Conservatives were “taking us (country) in the wrong direction”.

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