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The Conservative Party manifesto: An initial response from IFS Director Paul Johnson

Below we outline an initial response from IFS Director Paul Johnson on the Conservative Party manifesto. We take policy areas by turn but this is not a full assessment. A fuller assessment from IFS researchers is due shortly.

Responding to the Conservative Party manifesto, IFS Director Paul Johnson said:

"If the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos were notable for the scale of their ambitions the Conservative one is not. If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals we would have been calling it modest. As a blueprint for five years in government the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.

"In part that is because the chancellor announced some big spending rises back In September. Other than for health and schools, though, that was a one-off increase. Taken at face value today’s manifesto suggests that for most services, in terms of day-to-day spending, that’s it. Health and school spending will continue to rise. Give or take pennies, other public services, and working age benefits, will see the cuts to their day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in."

"One notable omission is any plan for social care. In his first speech as prime minister Boris Johnson promised to 'fix the crisis in social care once and for all'. After two decades of dither by both parties in government it seems we are no further forward."

"On the tax side the rise in the National Insurance threshold was well trailed. The ambition for it to get to £12,500 may remain, but only the initial rise to £9,500 has been costed and firmly promised. Most in paid work would benefit, but by less than £2 a week. Another £6 billion would need to be found to get to £12,500 by the end of the parliament. Given the pressures on the spending side that is not surprising."

"Perhaps the biggest, and least welcome, announcement is the 'triple tax lock': no increases in rates of income tax, NICs or VAT. That’s a constraint the chancellor may come to regret. It is also part of a fundamentally damaging narrative – that we can have the public services we want, with more money for health and pensions and schools – without paying for them. We can’t."

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