The Scotsman

Parties must now spell out spending plans

With the imminent arrival of manifestos Labour and the Tories must move on from soundbites to real detail

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Amid the furore over Rishi Sunak’s debunked claim of Labour’s £2,000 tax rise, it remains far from clear how the sums are adding up for either of the two main parties at Westminste­r.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies warned yesterday that the next government it will have to cut the scope of what the state provides or raise taxes to maintain levels of department­al funding – despite Labour and the Tories vowing not to raise taxes.

Reports yesterday suggested Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is set to include a pledge in the manifesto not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years. The Conservati­ves meanwhile have pledged not to increase capital gains tax, stamp duty or the number of council tax bands.

IFS research economist Bee Boileau said whoever wins on July 4 “will have a choice”.

“They can cut the scope of what the state provides, or accept further worsening of public services which already look under strain,” she said. “Or they can raise taxes, or borrow more, in order to top up spending and maintain real-terms levels of department­al funding.

“Neither the Conservati­ve Party nor the Labour Party has been clear about which of these options they would take. Neither has shown any ambition to cut the scope of the state.”

Indeed, the IFS has said there is a “conspiracy of silence” between Labour and the Tories over details and warned of around £18 billion of “sharp cuts”.

With the imminent arrival of manifestos, will we see some real detail on how the books are being balanced? With a clear Labour strategy not to do anything to threaten the huge poll lead, that is not certain.

Cuts in public spending in England obviously have a knock on impact in Scotland, and understand­ably the SNP is making repeated claims about the sharp cuts which will be on the way no matter who is in Downing Street.

The noise will continue until this election campaign moves on from soundbites to real detail.

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