As the Tories burnish their "long term economic plan" in their campaign to win this May's general election, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has issued a sobering reality check about how the UK economy is doing.
Marking the launch of their election website, IFS director Paul Johnson: “The last five years have been extraordinary. Earnings have fallen and productivity is well below expectations but, given economic performance, employment is amazingly high. Average living standards have been stagnant. While the deficit has been halved it remains much bigger than planned. "
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Some departments - like the NHS, schools and aid spending - have been protected from Osborne's axe. However, those unprotected ones have seen cuts by as much as 50%, at an average of 19.9%, the IFS said.
Despite frequently warning that Labour would fail to keep the deficit down the IFS found
that the deficit - as a proportion of national income - is now twice as large as Osborne originally planned.
According to the IFS
, real median incomes in 2015-2016 will only recover to the same level they were in 2010-2011, still 3% below pre-crisis levels. Mean real earnings have fallen by 5.7% since 2010 and are 8.6% below their 2008 levels.
Spending on social security has actually risen, despite Osborne's large cuts to employment benefits, mostly because of the increase in benefits for pensioners, and the state pension rising by 15%, the IFS found
. Nevertheless, Osborne still wants to cut billions more in working age benefits, while protecting those for pensioners.
The IFS found
output per hour worked has not increased since the crisis and is 16% below where it would have been on pre crisis trends, showing the continued weakness of the economy.