Since 2010 the UK has experienced a period of austerity unlike any in living memory. It has involved a massive fiscal consolidation borne almost entirely by cuts to spending on public services and working age social security. On current plans the squeeze will come to an end in 2019–20; but the long-term impacts of this experiment on society and the economy remain uncertain.
This report presents the ‘big picture’ behind these issues. In today’s climate of austerity a debate about the long-term functions of public spending has been side lined; so this report begins with an overview of how spending by government contributes to the wellbeing of society and the smooth running of the economy (Chapter 1). It then moves on to consider how UK public spending has evolved throughout recent history (Chapter 2) and sets these trends in an international context (Chapter 3). The report ends with an analysis of spending in the UK since 2010 and plans for further fiscal tightening in the current parliament (Chapter 4).