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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
Robert Chote and Carl Emmerson
Last week Chancellor Alistair Darling warned us not to expect a giveaway in next week's Budget, while his Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, reassured us that the Government could halve the deficit by 2013-14 without announcing any further tax increases. If both statements prove correct ...
Observation
In his 2008 Conservative party conference speech, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne announced that an incoming Conservative government would freeze Council Tax in England for two years. Over the past month, the parties have been disputing how much it would cost, if it were to be implemented in ...
Observation
Robert Chote, Rowena Crawford and Gemma Tetlow
"Whoever wins the election, Labour or Conservative, is going to have to cut spending. That is not something that Margaret Thatcher actually did. So tougher than Margaret Thatcher." So said George Osborne on the Today Programme this morning - and the numbers by and large bear him out.
Observation
The issue of marriage and family life looks set to be a key election battleground. In recent weeks, the Conservative Party's policy on supporting marriage in the tax system has been under the spotlight. A Green Paper on family policy is due to be released by the Government next week. ...
Observation
Mike Brewer, Alastair Muriel and Liam Wren-Lewis
It is widely known that income inequality has risen substantially over the past thirty years. During the 1980's, in particular, inequality rose dramatically - to levels from which it has never subsequently fallen. But what lies behind this increase in income inequality?
Observation
The Child Poverty Bill, due to be debated in the new Parliamentary Session, places a duty on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ensure that child poverty in 2020-21 is eradicated. But how can such a duty be legally enforced? Might there be a better way to improve poor children's lives? ...
Observation
One of David Cameron's key themes in his speech to the Conservative Party conference was that Labour has "made the poorest poorer", "left youth unemployment higher" and "made inequality greater". How fair are these accusations?
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 ...