There is no shortage of gloom on the public finances. The numbers look so appalling you can’t help but pray they are based one some dodgy assumptions that will soon be proved wrong. To cheer myself up ahead of the Treasury Christmas drinks, I thought it would be worthwhile to review them with some rose tinted spectacles, giving a fiscal view of the world that is so rosy even Gordon Brown would blush. Here are the five things to pray for:
1) Unemployment: The Treasury took the unexpected step of publishing internal unemployment forecasts this year. When you see how they compare to the National Audit Office numbers (which form the basis for the public finance projections) you can see why. The NAO, on which the PBR projections are based, think unemployment will rise to about 1.9m by 2010 and stay at that level till 2014. By 2012 there is a 700,000 difference with the Treasury estimate, which is the equivalent of an extra £3.5bn a year, if the Treasury figures prove to be correct. Read more
Sometimes it seems like the only trusted voice in politics is that of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. In Westminster, IFS papers have the weight of something like a Papal edict. Here’s our selection of the best slides from their latest presentation on the PBR. Hats off to Gemma Tetlow and Stuart Adam.
So even ministers are human, it transpires. Mike O’Brien, minister for health service, claimed for a huge amount of junk food in his spring 2008 expenses: including
28 ready meals, 20 mini doughnuts, jumbo wedges, banoffi tart, 20 choc ices, lollies, puddings, Fox’s sweets, rice puddings, glacier mints and more……
Laura Moffat, Labour MP for Crawley, claimed in total just £38.70 under the additional cost allowance in the whole of 2008-9. That makes her by far the most austere member of Parliament.
There is also a single night at a Novotel on her expenses claim but that appears to pre-date that financial year. The Telegraph wrote a while back that Moffat had given up her flat in favour of a camp-bed in her Commons’ office. Read more
The MPs expense receipts released today were made after members knew that their claims would almost certainly be made public. As a result, most MPs will have shown relative caution.
More MPs’ expenses receipts are out. So far there is nothing particularly shocking to report. But looking through them is a depressing business. Some things we just do not need to know.
Just imagine receiving a receipt from a cleaning company that describes your sofa as “full of crumbs and dirty” and condemns your carpet for having “large spot marks and stains” — and then realising it would be made public. Read more