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Public spending and finance

We conduct ongoing analysis of the outturns of, and outlook for, the public finances. Our work in this area assesses the records of successive governments, and looks at forecasts for government revenues and spending (overall and in specific areas), with the aim of informing the public debate.

We conduct timely analysis of issues related to budgets, spending reviews, and elections. Our website provides data and useful background information on historic trends and recent issues relating to public spending and the public finances.

IFS research also examines topics related to the public finances in more depth. For example, recent papers have reflected on the Brexit vote, considered the fiscal challenges and opportunities for an independent Scotland, and explored international comparisons of the public finances in the Great Recession.

Selected highlights

Report
The IFS Green Budget 2019, in association with Citi and the Nuffield Foundation, is edited by Carl Emmerson, Christine Farquharson and Paul Johnson, and copy-edited by Judith Payne. The report looks at the issues and challenges facing Chancellor Sajid Javid as he prepares for his first Budget.
Briefing note
This Wednesday the Chancellor will allocate funding to departments for the next financial year, 2020-2021. This departmental spending (DEL) is £375 billion this year.
Observation
how_much_would_it_really_cost_to_write_off_student_debt
In this observation IFS researchers analyse how much it would really cost to write-off student debt.
Past event
IFS researchers presented their analysis of the main party manifestos at a press briefing event on Friday 26 May (postponed from the original date of Tuesday 23 May due to events in Manchester).
Video clip
What's been happening to tax, spending and the public finances? These short explainer videos have been made to provide context to the 2017 Spring Budget.
Report
This report examines both the direct and indirect effects of Brexit on the UK’s public finances, based on a comprehensive review of studies analysing the short- and long- term economic effects of Brexit.

Contacts

Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or mailbox@ifs.org.uk

David Phillips
Associate Director
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Briefing note
This briefing note examines impacts for English councils using outturns data for 2020–21, compares these with expectations based on ex ante and rapidly available indicators, and considers the implications for both councils’ current financial resilience and how the financial impacts of future ...
Report
In a new report published today, researchers look at the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for the funding arrangements of the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Observation
An initial analysis of the 2022-23 Local Government Finance Settlement finds slightly more funding than expected, and bigger increases for poorer areas.
Observation
In the Budget the Chancellor reduced the ‘taper rate’ in Universal Credit (UC) – the speed at which the benefit is withdrawn as a claimant’s earnings rise – and increased the ‘work allowance’ – the amount that can be earned before that tapering starts. In doing so he boosted the ...
Book chapter
In this chapter, we look at the options and trade-offs for the Chancellor ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review.
Book chapter
Since the March Budget, encouraging early indicators on the recovery in consumer spending, the labour market and government revenues have led to an upwards revision in most economic forecasts.
Book chapter
The Chancellor was right to suspend the current set of fiscal targets during the pandemic, and he is also right to take time to consider what a good set of post-pandemic targets will be.
Newspaper article
"Both government funding decisions over the past decade and the structure of council tax have worked against “levelling up”." Paul Johnson in The Times on local government funding.
External publication
David Phillips in the Municipal Journal on the need for clarity on local government funding in the upcoming Spending Review.
Book chapter
We examine what’s happened and what’s next for councils in England and Wales, focusing on the short-term financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medium-term financial outlook, and planned and potential financial and service reforms over the next few years.