The Institute for Fiscal Studies is deeply unimpressed at what it deemed a “lack of significant policy action” in the Conservative Party manifesto.
The Tory social care crisis for Britain’s elderly and infirm that Johnson had promised to fix when he became PM did not even get a mention in the manifesto. Johnson had previously claimed that he had a plan ready to sort it out.
The IFS concluded that the manifesto plans meant people expecting relief for Britain’s public services after a decade of austerity would instead see “cuts to their day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in.”
Economic researchers at the independent think tank calculated that the National Insurance threshold rise to £9,500 that Boris Johnson appeared to have lied or been mistaken about will actually only save most in paid work “less than £2 a week” and highlighted the “notable omission” for any plan to deal with the crisis in social care funding.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the Nuffield Trust, an independent health think tank, said he was “bitterly disappointed” to see “unnecessary delay” in tackling the issue of social care.
IFS director Paul Johnson said: “If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals, we would have been calling it modest.
“As a blueprint for five years in government, the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.”
Main manifesto pledges quickly debunked
Speaking at a launch event in Telford, Boris Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to take the UK out of the EU by the end of January, so they could “forge a new Britain”. “We will get Brexit done and we will end the acrimony and the chaos,” he said.
As well as a flagship promise of 50,000 more nurses for the NHS in England despite Brexit “chaos”, the manifesto included a U-turn restoring maintenance grants for student nurses previously scrapped by the Tories.
Tory sources later acknowledged that about 30,000 of the additional nurses would come from measures to retain existing staff rather than new recruits, and the main Tory manifesto pledge was debunked among other claims by a fact checking service within hours of the launch. Labour called the Tory figures “deceitful.”
Chief executive Will Moy said the Conservative Party could “do more to meet the standards we expect” after investigating its pledges on paving the way for 50,000 new nurses and limiting day-to-day spending increases to only £3 billion, despite promising a litany of public services investment.
The fact checkers also slammed Johnson’s use the the slogan “get Brexit done”, a phrase that appears 22 times in the manifesto including on the cover, when a deal with the European Union could take “years to negotiate”.
“The Brexit process will not be completed by January,” despite what Johnson keeps repeating said the independent organisation.
‘Older people face a triple whammy’
“After a decade of the Conservatives cutting our NHS, police and schools, all Boris Johnson is offering is more of the same: more cuts, more failure, and years more of Brexit uncertainty,” Jeremy Corbyn responded.
He added: “Boris Johnson can’t be trusted. Older people face a triple whammy as he has failed to protect free TV licences for over 75s, refused to grant justice to women unfairly affected by the increase in the state pension age, and not offered a plan or extra money to fix the social care crisis.”
The lacklustre manifesto may be down to Conservative complacency after recent polls. The latest polling released on Sunday, created by Datapraxis using YouGov polling and voter interviews, suggested the Tories were on course to secure their largest Commons majority since 1987 – a majority of almost 50 MPs.
This would mean if Boris Johnson met the public services spending promises in his manifesto the UK would still be looking at a decade of cuts “baked into” our services, according to the IFS analysis.
Boris Johnson’s broken promise to fix Tory social care crisis
Paul Johnson of the IFS’ initial reaction to the Tory manifesto was scathing: “If the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos were notable for the scale of their ambitions the Conservative one is not. If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals we would have been calling it modest. As a blueprint for five years in government the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.
“In part that is because the chancellor announced some big spending rises back In September. Other than for health and schools, though, that was a one-off increase. Taken at face value today’s manifesto suggests that for most services, in terms of day-to-day spending, that’s it. Health and school spending will continue to rise. Give or take pennies, other public services, and working age benefits, will see the cuts to their day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in.”
“One notable omission is any plan for social care. In his first speech as prime minister Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’. After two decades of dither by both parties in government it seems we are no further forward.
“On the tax side the rise in the National Insurance threshold was well trailed. The ambition for it to get to £12,500 may remain, but only the initial rise to £9,500 has been costed and firmly promised. Most in paid work would benefit, but by less than £2 a week. Another £6 billion would need to be found to get to £12,500 by the end of the parliament. Given the pressures on the spending side that is not surprising.”
“Perhaps the biggest, and least welcome, announcement is the ‘triple tax lock’: no increases in rates of income tax, NICs or VAT. That’s a constraint the chancellor may come to regret. It is also part of a fundamentally damaging narrative – that we can have the public services we want, with more money for health and pensions and schools – without paying for them. We can’t.”
School cuts barely reversed
The Conservative manifesto confirmed previous commitments in England to increase school spend in England by £7.1 billion by 2022–23. However, that would leave spend per pupil in real terms after a decade of austerity at the same level as 13 years ago, the IFS explained.
In contrast the IFS found the Labour commitment of a £7.5 billion real terms increase by 2022–23 a 14.6% rise in spending per pupil.
Unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats the Conservative manifesto refused to extend free, pre-school childcare.
IFS researchers warned that the Conservative manifesto pledges left “little scope for spending increases beyond next year outside of those planned for health and schools.”
In a dire warning the IFS added: “even in 2023–24 day-to-day spending on public services outside of health would still be almost 15 per cent lower in real terms that it was at the start of the 2010s.”