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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Election fact check: Tory spending plans
THE CLAIM

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have launched a fierce attack on Conservative spending plans, claiming they don't add up. The Conservatives say they can cut 4bn in taxes, increase public spending on front line services, and balance the budget "by going to war on waste and ending ineffective public spending programmes".

BACKGROUND

All the political parties would like to find painless cuts in "non-essential" services and bureaucrats in order to fund more spending and/or tax cuts.

Labour says it will implement the 21bn savings highlighted in the Gershon report it commissioned. The Liberal Democrats say they have found 6bn more savings than Gershon, and the Conservatives say they have identified 13bn savings on top of those outlined by the Gershon report.

THE FACTS

BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr has said coming to an exact conclusion on the claims and counter-claims is "as easy as nailing a jellyfish to a wall". Robert Chote, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, says all parties "may be over-optimistic about how quickly and painlessly such savings can be realised".

The Conservatives say their plans do add up: they are going to maintain Labour's spending plans over two years on health, education, crime, and aid, while cutting "non-essential" departments by 12bn to make room for 4bn in tax cuts and 8bn in reductions in borrowing.

Labour claims the Tories have further spending commitments of 15bn, and that the planned spending cuts they want to use to fund these extra services do not add up.

The Conservatives accept that they are planning to spend additional sums on things like more police and more school places - but say that they will be funded as part of their departmental budgets, so it's just a case of the same amount of money being spent differently.

Robert Chote, director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that until Labour explains how they will spend the savings made by the Gershon review in detail, it is impossible to tell whether "frontline" services will be hit.

THE CONCLUSION

All parties are going through their rivals' spending plans with a fine toothcomb; a number of disagreements on projected savings, for example on immigration policy, have been unearthed. The Tories have had to explain that they would not be introducing their tax cuts immediately. But given that so many details of all plans are yet to be known, and because no-one can predict exactly how the economy is going to perform, the overall battle so far has resulted in a draw.



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