£9bn black hole: Painful tax rises likely to hit households after next election as George Osborne is accused of fudging deficit figures

Chancellor under fire as Labour attacks £2.2bn 'raid' on NHS to honour borrowing pledge

Households and businesses should brace for painful tax rises after the next election to fill a £9bn hole in public finances, a leading economic think-tank warned today.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) was also scathing about what it described as the last-minute manipulation of departmental budgets ahead of the Budget in order to save George Osborne the embarrassment of having to report that Britain’s annual deficit was rising, rather than falling.

It said its analysis revealed that without new tax rises government spending would have to be cut by 18 per cent by 2018, suggesting that after an election it was much more likely that a future government would attempt to find those savings through new taxes rather than through further swingeing spending cuts.

The Chancellor surprised economists when he announced that public borrowing for 2012-13 would come in £100m below the £121bn deficit recorded in 2011-12.

Most analysts had expected the Office for Budget Responsibility to project a deficit some £5bn to £10bn higher than the previous year, given that the public finances had shown a year-on-year deterioration between last April and January. But an examination of the OBR’s document revealed that the Chancellor had achieved this unlikely feat by ordering departments to underspend their budgets in the final two months of the year.

The IFS highlighted the contrast between Mr Osborne’s behaviour and his words shortly after taking office in June 2010, when he pledged: “From now on we will have to fix the budget to fit the figures, instead of fixing the figures to fit the budget.”

Gemma Tetlow, an IFS researcher, added that the manipulation might have created “real economic costs” by diverting officials from more valuable work in delivering public services.

Among the savings was a £2.2bn underspend in the NHS budget which Labour said was a “raid” on health spending that could have been used to prevent job losses amongst nurses and other staff. “David Cameron cannot justify cutting the front-line NHS to pay for his failed economic policies,” said the Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham.

The IFS said a study of budget documents revealed that Britain’s sluggish economic growth would mean continued austerity for years to come.

It said the Treasury had halved its forecast for growth in 2013 to just 0.6 per cent. It also revealed that tax revenues were £5bn less than planned, pushing up the deficit. By the end of the current financial year, Whitehall departments’ budgets will have been cut by an average of 8.9 per cent, the IFS said.

If the additional austerity fell entirely on spending, it would mean that by 2017/18, departments would suffer unprecedented cuts of 18 per cent.

Rowena Crawford, of the IFS, said politicians would almost certainly prefer to find some of the money from tax. One option would be to avoid greater cuts in departmental budgets and keep the squeeze on spending at its current level. That would require new tax rises of £9bn in the two years after the election, the IFS estimated.

£9bn is the equivalent of more than 2p on the basic rate of income tax, and equal to £346 for every household.

Paul Johnson, the IFS director, said that tax cuts were “more likely than not”. But he said if not the implication for spending after 2015 was “grim”.

“The implication is that the real effect of public spending cuts pencilled in for the next Parliament will be even more severe than expected hitherto,” he said.

“Add to that the fact that we are promised more capital spending, more spending on social care and a more generous childcare subsidy, within an overall spending envelope that has not been expanded, and the outlook for all other unprotected spending looks grim indeed.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Accountant

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A national firm of chartered ce...

Recruitment Genius: Full Time and Part Time Digital Designer - North Kent

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful web design/deve...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders