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IFS warns about news behind UK growth

21st Dec 2013

The influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned that higher UK growth forecasts may “hide some disappointing news for the chancellor”.

It claims that the increased forecast us just a result of growth coming a bit sooner than had been expected.

The think-tank warns that things like free school meals are currently unfunded after 2015.

The pace of cuts in public service spending, it says, will accelerate from 2.3% a year between 2011 and March 2016 to 3.7% a year until early 2019.

The IFS has previously warned of the extent of spending cuts that Chancellor George Osborne will have to make after the next election, if he is still in the job.

Announcements made in the Budget in March, as well as in the recently released Autumn Statement, about things like not increasing fuel duties and creating marriage allowances in the tax system will add an extra £7 billion of spending into the period from 2015 to 2016, it says.

“The chancellor continues to make specific promises on spending increases whilst stating that he will keep total spending at the same level.  He can’t keep doing that,” Paul Johnson from the IFS said.

He also stresses the uncertainty of the amount of money that will actually be raised by anti-avoidance measures and the increased bank levy.

In addition, he says there will now have to be more austerity as a result of the chancellor’s pledge to balance the budget by the end of the next parliament without raising taxes.

“There’s even more austerity than we’d expected because the chancellor has decided he wants to continue for an additional year in order to get the books into surplus – he doesn’t need to do that for his own fiscal rules,” Mr Johnson said.

Much of the attention on the Autumn Statement has focused on the decision to raise the state pension age to 68 in the mid-2030s and 69 in the late 2040s.

Mr Osbourne said: “The reason we do this is because our country is getting older and we want to go on being able to afford really good pensions for people.  There is not a bottomless pit of money.”

“The alternative is a pension system that would collapse because it was unaffordable,” he added.