Tories would have to raise spending by £54billion to keep 'end austerity' promise

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will have to use his first Budget on March 11 to raise day-to-day spending by £54billion if he is to keep the Tory promise to end austerity, Labour has claimed.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made the comments in response to an Institute for Fiscal Studies Analysis which shows Mr Sunak will have to put up taxes if he is to maintain the Government’s rules on borrowing.

The IFS said loosening or abandoning the rules, set out in last year’s Conservative election manifesto, would undermine the credibility of any fiscal targets the Government set.

Mr McDonnell said: “This analysis shows the damage done by a decade of decline under Conservative governments, and the scale of investment needed even just to get back to 2010 spending levels.

“Ten years of Tory rule have brought ten years of chaotic and erratic economic policy, with 16 fiscal targets proposed and ripped up and productivity growth plummeting.

John McDonnell said austerity had severely damaged the UK economu

“Despite all the hype about this budget turning a page, it risks setting in train five years of disappointment. Labour will continue to call for the fair taxation and investment needed to end austerity and tackle our social and climate emergencies.”

During the election campaign, then chancellor Sajid Javid committed to run a balanced budget for current spending within three years.

But following his dramatic resignation in the Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Sunak is reported to be under pressure from Boris Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings to loosen the spending constraints.

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However the IFS said that even on current policy, borrowing next year could be £63 billion, £23 billion more than the most recent official forecast, putting the manifesto target in doubt.

With the Government committed to increasing investment spending, it said that even getting the current budget into balance would not be enough to bring down underlying debt over the course of the parliament.

Loosening or abandoning the current fiscal rule now would put debt on a clearly rising path.

“That would not be sustainable in the long term,” the IFS analysis warned.

The Conservative election manifesto also committed the Government not to put up income tax, national insurance or VAT.

However, among the alternative ways for raising revenue, the IFS said abolishing entrepreneurs’ relief in capital gains tax and increasing council tax for those living in more expensive properties could form part of a “desirable package” of reforms.

It said that in 2017-18 alone, three quarters of the £2.3 billion cost of entrepreneurs’ relief went to just 5,000 individuals with an average tax saving of £350,000 each.

At the same time, the IFS said restricting pensions tax relief to the basic rate would bring in more than £11 billion, although it suggested there were better ways of reform.

It also pointed out that continuing to freeze fuel duty would cost the Treasury £4 billion by the end of the current parliament.

IFS director Paul Johnson said Mr Sunak’s first Budget would now set the direction of Government policy for the next five years.

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“If this new Government is going to make radical change to taxes and spending this surely is the time to do it,” he said.

Ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid set out a number of the Tory commitments in the general election last year

“The Chancellor is hemmed in by a rising deficit and fiscal targets set out in the Conservative manifesto.

“They will allow him to increase investment spending, which will be welcome if well targeted. But they will not allow substantial increases in current spending, or tax cuts, to be funded by more borrowing.

“We have already had 16 fiscal targets in a decade, and fiscal targets should not just be for Christmas. Mr Sunak should resist the temptation to announce another and instead recognise that more spending must require more tax.”



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