Britain faces painful choices over the future of public services as an ageing population and a growing obesity epidemic threaten to push the nation's finances back into the red, a leading think-tank warned today.
The Institute for Public Policy Research's latest report, The Long View, which analyses prospects for public services in 2030, called for the debate amid fresh warnings over the unsustainability of public spending in the decades ahead.
According to official forecasts, the number of people aged over 85 is set to more than double in the next 25 years while nearly half of men and 43 per cent of women may be obese by 2030, costing billions extra in health and age related spending.
As spending rises and the tax take from a smaller working-age population dwindles, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the UK's budget will move from a surplus of 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 to a deficit of 0.6 per cent in 2030 and 3.2 per cent by 2060-61 – a deterioration of £66bn in today's terms.
The IPPR said politicians had to consider uncomfortable options such as prioritising certain services, driving productivity gains or preventative spending in areas like crime and health to stave off even bigger outlays later.
"In times of plenty, Britain did not have to address these questions... Those days are now over and as a country we will have to choose," the report warned.