If the Institute for Fiscal Studies is having difficult, well, studying fiscal stuff, then it’s fair to say it must be pretty opaque. IFS director Paul Johnson issued scathing remarks about the information provided with the Spending Review documentation, suggesting that it flew in the face of government claims about transparency. He says: ‘Publishing such a small amount of information with so little explanation is not an exercise in open government.’
He also asked why there had been no angry public response at the news that 144,000 public sector jobs are to be axed in a single year, under the vague terms of the Spending Review. ‘We seem to have got used to this level of austerity,’ he added, bristling. So what exactly is so unclear about it, you ask? The IFS gives the example of Home Office expenditure on day-to-day operations. In the actual Budget, earlier this year, it was set at £7.4bn, while yesterday’s Spending Review sets it at £10.4bn, without explaining why, where the money will come from, or why a change had been made in the first place.
Apparently it is actually because the police grant/budget has been moved from the Local Government balance sheet to the Home Office one, but it took some pretty serious excavation to uncover that detail. An analyst at the IFS, Gemma Tetlow, told the BBC it is ‘next to impossible’ to determine exactly how big the cuts to each department will end up being if you include every budget change from 2010 to 2015.
However, we suspect this is a deliberate tactic from the government, which will be keen to disguise the less palatable parts of its budgeting. Whether or not the jumping around of figures is a bit of obtuseness from Osborne remains to be seen. But, at least he came clean to the electorate about the what influenced his choice of burger – that’s obviously the more important issue.