Analysing the general election manifestos

Over the last week, ICAEW has been working through the manifestos of the three main national parties contesting next month’s UK general election. We have looked at the policies from the perspective of their relevance to six areas:

• Public sector spending
• Taxation
• Trust in business
• Regulation
• Post-Brexit market access and trade
• Managing the deficit

Whilst it is not our role to offer an opinion on which is the stronger of the three – after all, ICAEW is apolitical – I hope that our analysis will help inform the choice that our members and others have to make on 8 June.

Taking all of them in the round, we continue to have concerns around the management of the public finances with little evidence of robust, costed plans from any party to manage public spending and to tackle the deficit, an issue which in our view is just being kicked even further down the road. No party has committed to simplifying the tax system – indeed, all include proposals for tax that will achieve the reverse, adding to its complexity. And we question the parties’ ability to make a meaningful reduction on the regulatory burden on business at a time when the UK economy is facing significant levels of uncertainty due to Brexit.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of all three manifestos is the lack of big ideas to tackle the challenges our country and our economy faces. Our friends at the Institute of Fiscal Studies have made a similar point in their analysis. It may be argued that the nature of a snap election, coming so soon after the general election of 2015, doesn’t give policy makers enough time to develop those. But are we missing the opportunity that the general election gives to think more deeply about how we shape the UK’s future beyond who is best placed to lead it?

In the next two weeks, we will start to unveil our own thinking about the priorities for the next Government and what should be at the top of the in-trays for ministers as they get to grips with their responsibilities. These priorities are drawn from conversations and discussions with our members across the UK and are based on some of our existing policy documents. But if you have your own thoughts on what you would like the new Government to be focussing on, I would love to hear from you.

Read the full analysis here.