Headlines: May 22nd, 2001

Once again the election debate has focused on public services with politicians seeking to reveal or conceal their funding intentions, particularly in the longer term. Funding promises for public services are tempered by tax promises for the taxpayer and whilst the greatest volume of the debate is about tax, the outcome will be crucially important for the services.The Conservative Party have pledged that public spending on health and education would still go up, despite a commitment to cut expenditure by 8 billion pounds. The Labour Party asserts that they have costed these proposals and found that the total is 10 billion pounds.

Labour claimed that its plans for a second term would be about renewing the public services – education, the NHS, transport, and the criminal justice system.

The core of the debate has now moved beyond the first three year period of the next parliament with both sides arguing that they are ready to make tax and spending commitments for the first three years, but no further. It is still uncertain whether a newspaper report that the Conservatives view the 8 billion pounds cut in expenditure as a step towards a 20 billion pounds cut later is accurate. Labour on the other hand are unwilling to give a pledge that taxes will not rise should the economy slow and endanger the funding of services in the longer term. The Liberal Democrats claim that they are the only party being honest by promising to raise taxes to pay for increases in public spending.