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Observations

In these frequent and topical observations, we comment on policy issues related to our research programme. Sign up to receive email alerts when new observations are posted, or scroll down to subscribe to one of our RSS feeds.
Observation
Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour party conference confirmed that, if it wins the general election, the Government will provide free early education and childcare places for 2 year old children in low-income families in England by 2015, to be funded by scrapping the tax break on employer-provided ...
Observation
Rowena Crawford, Carl Emmerson and Gemma Tetlow
The Treasury's plans for public spending would require spending by central government on public services to be cut in real terms by 8.6% in 2013-14 compared to 2010-11. Is this too much or too little, and how should the pain be shared? A new tool, DIY Spending Review, that can be downloaded as an ...
Observation
The Centre for Social Justice published a report, in association with Oliver Wyman, on how to reform the benefits and tax credits system, with the aim of reducing the number of families where no one is in work. Will the proposals work, and at what cost?
Observation
Robert Chote
There is a lot we do not yet know about how Labour and the Conservatives would go about repairing Britain's battered public finances over the next few years. But yesterday's speeches by David Cameron and Alistair Darling at least highlight a sharp difference of opinion over what should be done next ...
Observation
The need, in the medium-term, to reduce public borrowing makes it natural to try to identify the areas of public spending that could be cut with the least pain. Might the Child Trust Fund be a potential candidate?
Observation
Alastair Muriel and Luke Sibieta
How fast is unemployment rising? Recently, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has been rising at a slower rate than the numbers unemployed on a broader measure. The Government has announced an investigation into this apparent discrepancy. But is there really any discrepancy at all?
Observation
In Prime Minister's Questions this week Gordon Brown and David Cameron clashed over the Government's plans for spending on investment in public services. So how do the plans for investment spending going forwards compare to Labour's record to date and to that of previous Conservative Governments?
Observation
Robert Chote
The International Monetary Fund has released the conclusions of its annual "Article IV" health-check for the UK economy. It endorses the Government's short-term fiscal giveaway to help ameliorate the recession (which the Conservatives say was a mistake), but says that it should be more ...
Observation
Robert Chote
If the picture painted by the Treasury in this year’s Budget is correct, we are currently suffering a “bust” without having enjoyed a “boom”. But there is an alternative view of recent history that casts a less favourable light on Gordon Brown's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Observation
Robert Chote
Alistair Darling admitted yesterday that the underlying health of the public finances is much weaker than he thought in last year's Pre-Budget Report, and that it will take two full parliaments of intensifying austerity to get government borrowing back to acceptable levels.
Observation
Some of today's papers suggest that the Conservatives have softened their inheritance tax policy while others have suggested that their promise to cut this tax remains. But is this pledge affordable given the state of the public finances?
Observation
Andrew Leicester
The publication yesterday of the annual report of the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, contains a controversial proposal to impose a minimum price of 50p per unit on alcohol, and follows close on the heels of similar ideas floated by the Scottish Government. We consider the merits of such ...
Observation
At their spring conference this weekend, the Liberal Democrats will discuss a series of proposals designed to combat inequalities in Britain's education system. One is a "pupil premium [to] bring the funding levels [of] one million disadvantaged pupils immediately up to private school ...
Observation
Alastair Muriel and Luke Sibieta
Schools Secretary Ed Balls has stated that he would be concerned if lotteries were used "other than as a last resort", and announced that the practice is to be reviewed by the Schools Adjudicator, to ensure that it is "fair for children." This observation suggests random school ...
Observation
Haroon Chowdry, Alissa Goodman and Alastair Muriel
A House of Commons report has criticised the lack of progress made by universities in widening higher education participation among under-represented groups, despite public money allocated to them for this purpose. But IFS research suggests that the key to improving access to higher education lies ...
Observation
Robert Chote
Despite official figures showing that the public finances are weakening more sharply than the Treasury predicted in November's Pre-Budget Report, Gordon Brown has been handed some useful ammunition if he wants to argue for a further short-term fiscal giveaway in April's Budget.
Observation
Last week ministers made changes to the Government's child poverty targets, suggesting that it would be enough to cut the proportion of children in poverty on the most familiar definition to 10% rather than the 5% they have so far aspired to.
Observation
The latest annual survey of Business Enterprise Research & Development, released by the Office for National Statistics this morning, shows another real increase in R&D spending during 2007, in line with growth in real national income. But will the recession throw this into reverse?