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PUBLIC SPEND TO SWELL IF BUDGETS CARRIED OVER

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Public spending could see a massive increase if government departments were allowed to use underspend from previous...
Public spending could see a massive increase if government departments were allowed to use underspend from previous years.

Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveal public spending could rise by more than 10%, providing a massive boost to the economy.

The news will add weight to the Local Government Association's argument that capital borrowing freedoms should be introduced as soon as possible to allow councils to invest.

LGA finance director Neil Kinghan said: 'Legislation should be brought forward to reform the local government capital finance system and improve investment in public services.'

Government departments underspent by nearly£7bn last year. Economic growth is slowing and is likely to be below the Treasury's forecast, so the government is expected to allow departments greater spending freedoms after they failed to spend the cash allocated to them for the fourth year running.

The DTLR is one of the biggest underspenders. It underspent its main programmes by around£860m last year, according to the IFS figures. The Department for Education and Skills has underspent by around£1.4bn and the Department of Health by around£500m.

The IFS figures show departments are coming closer to spending the required budget, but there is still enormous scope for councils to be given greater powers to invest in vital services, according to the LGA.

Around£2bn worth of the government's capital expenditure, which is around 30%, has been carried forward into this year's spending plans. The total amount of underspend being carried forward is£6.7bn.

Senior research economist at the IFS Carl Emmerson said: 'There could be a huge increase in public spending, but it depends which departments are allowed to spend the budgets left over from previous years.'

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