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The outlook for the public finances appears significantly weaker than the Treasury predicted in the November 2008 Pre-Budget Report (PBR). This will have an important bearing on the two key tax and spending decisions that Chancellor Alistair Darling will have to take in his Budget statement on 22 April: whether to announce an additional short-term stimulus to help support the economy and whether to announce an additional long- term tightening to help repair the public finances.

This Briefing Note sets out illustrative projections for the outlook for government borrowing and debt over the next few years. It then assesses by how much this or a future government might need to cut existing public spending plans and/or increase taxes to ensure that the outlook for public sector borrowing was no worse than that laid out in the PBR.

The analysis in this Briefing Note builds on the detailed forecasts in the January 2009 IFS Green Budget. It does not re-estimate the Green Budget forecasts, but instead makes some broad-brush adjustments to them to reflect new information and analysis available since the PBR.