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Public spending and finance
IFS researchers conduct ongoing analysis of the outturns of and outlook for the public finances. Our work in this area looks at forecasts of government revenues and spending (overall and on specific areas) and aims to inform public debate, particularly around the time of Budgets, Autumn Statements, Spending Reviews and Elections. Over many years we have kept track of the evolution of the public finances and how different governments have fared. A number of IFS publications have assessed the fiscal performance of past administrations.

The financial crisis and the economic damage associated with it opened up a structural hole in the public finances that, if left unaddressed, would be impervious to the economic recovery and would put public sector debt on an unsustainable path. The coalition Government faces a significant challenge to restore the public finances to better health. A comprehensive description of how the public finances evolved through the Great Recession can be found in Disease and cure in the UK: the fiscal impact of the crisis and the policy response.

Overview of research on public spending and finance.

See all current research projects for this subject


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Year: 611 publications
10 April 2014
This report updates and extends the previous IFS work to examine the consequences of these changes for graduates.
21 March 2014
IFS analysis of March's public finance figures.
20 March 2014
13 March 2014
This presentation was delivered to BBC journalists in advance of the Budget 2014.
12 March 2014
Today, the Scottish Government published the latest version of its annual Government Expenditure and Revenues Scotland (GERS) publication. For the first time in 5 years GERS suggests that Scotland's net fiscal balance, or budget deficit, was worse than that of the UK as a whole even when allocating North Sea revenues to Scotland on an illustrative geographic basis. Until now these revenues have been enough to more than outweigh the higher public spending per head in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. But not in 2012–13.
06 March 2014
This paper provides causal estimates of the effect of teacher pay on pupil attainment using a sharp geographical discontinuity in teacher salaries.
21 February 2014
IFS analysis of February's public finance figures.
14 February 2014
In this briefing note, we combine various data sources to provide for the first time a consistent picture on how the size and composition of the public sector workforce has changed over the past 50 years.
22 January 2014
IFS analysis of January's public finance figures.
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Browse publications & research

Impact on Society
An IFS economist advised a “Citizens Jury” on the welfare system, including basic facts and important issues about its purpose and structure.
Past research into pension reform has contributed to evidence given to government on public service pensions.
Public spending analysis stokes public debate and prompts increased transparency over government’s plans for spending cuts.
IFS researchers have evaluated whether the temporary VAT cut was able to boost the economy effectively.
IFS researchers helped make a case against proposed cuts to public spending on science.
IFS arguments for independent official fiscal forecasts contributed to the government’s decision to set up an Office for Budget Responsibility.
IFS recommendations for presenting fiscal forecasts are being taken up by the new Office for Budget Responsibility.
Research told policymakers that, despite greater expenditure on health care, Americans are less healthy than their English counterparts.
IFS researchers assessed the government’s fiscal rules and advised policymakers as to how they could be made more credible.
We provided evidence to the Browne Review of higher education funding about the impact of a number of higher education finance reforms.
IFS researchers draw together lessons from behavioural economics for tax and benefit policy in a report aimed at policymakers.
We analysed the impact of the 2006 HE funding reforms and informed the surrounding debate.
IFS researchers have investigated whether it is possible to measure the distributional impact of changes to spending on public services.