The UK economy is £140bn smaller than the Chancellor planned, says the TUC

The UK economy is £140bn smaller than the government predicted in 2010, according to new analysis published today (Sunday) by the TUC in its Budget statement.

The analysis shows that the economy has grown at just two-thirds of the rate the Chancellor expected when he first took office.

The TUC says that spending cuts have resulted in slower growth, low productivity and a weak recovery in wages.

UK workers are still over £40 a week worse off than before the recession. And UK productivity is 17% down on its pre-crisis trend.

As a result the government has collected far less in tax than expected, with public debt rising by £460bn between 2010 and 2015.

The TUC’s Budget statement calls for:

·    An immediate investment boost in infrastructure

·    Lifting the one per cent public sector pay cap

·    Reversing the planned cut to local government grants

·    Introducing an urgent, comprehensive rescue package for British steel

·    Introducing a Job Guarantee for long-term unemployed young people

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This government has presided over the slowest recovery in UK history.

“George Osborne has missed target after target on growth, wages and the deficit.

“We need a better plan for long-term growth that has investment in infrastructure, skills and decent jobs at the heart of it.

“We cannot afford another round of cuts, which are making public services worse without making the economy or the public finances better.

“The Chancellor may have begun paying lip service to the importance of supporting industry, but he’s delivered little more than a rag-tag of pre-existing policies bundled together.

“Without a better-balanced economy and a proper industrial policy, vital industries will continue to decline and millions of families will face an uncertain future.”

The TUC’s Budget statement says that the Chancellor has failed to fix many of the problems in the UK economy that he identified when taking office in 2010. And in many cases he has made them worse:

On re-balancing the economy: 

The much-heralded “march of the makers” has failed to materialise, with growth remaining skewed towards the service sector.

While it is good that the service sector is 12.5% above its previous peak, manufacturing has remained virtually stagnant. Manufacturing has grown by just 0.1% a year since 2010 and is still 5.9% below its pre-crisis summit.

Meanwhile, the construction industry has suffered periods in recession and is still 2% smaller than it was before the crash.

And despite repeated talk of creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, London now accounts for 22.5% of the UK economy – up from 20.4% in 2010.

On living standards:

While employment has recovered, wage growth has remained very sluggish.

Even if real earnings rise at the speed projected in November by the Office for Budget Responsibility (now very unlikely), they will have been below their pre-crisis peak for eleven years.

The only comparable period for wage stagnation is the Great Depression era of the 1920s and 1930s.

On private debt

Consumer credit is growing at its fastest rate for a decade. The burden of this debt is highest for those on lower incomes, with one in eight (3.2 million) UK households in problem debt.

Meanwhile, corporate debt has remained alarmingly high since the financial crisis at over 120% of GDP.

On the public finances:

Public sector borrowing in 2015-16 is likely to be around four times higher than was planned in 2010. This is largely the result of weak tax revenues from households and businesses.

On business investment:

In 2015 business investment was 9.6% cent of GDP – lower than before the crash.


– HMT expected the economy to grow by 29% between 2010 and 2015. In fact it grew by 19%. This corresponds to a cash difference of almost £140bn on the basis of the current definition of GDP.

– The TUC’s 2016 Budget statement makes the following policy calls:


  • Commit to an immediate infrastructure boost.
  • Use expanded infrastructure investment to fulfil the government’s commitment to providing three million apprenticeships by 2020.


  • Equalise the National Minimum Wage for young people aged 21-24 and ensure that minimum wage rates for workers under 21 grow at least as fast as rates for adults.
  • Lift the one per cent public sector pay cap.

Public services

  • Reverse the planned cut to local government grants.
  • Lift the cap on the Housing Revenue Account spending in order to revitalise social housing stock.
  • Commit to sufficient funding of health and care services.
  • Municipalise local bus services, along the lines of the London model.

Industrial strategy

  • Introduce an urgent, comprehensive rescue package for British steel.
  • Deliver a long-term roadmap to increase UK investment in research and development to three per cent of GDP.
  • Implement a sustainable, modern industrial strategy, with responsibility shared between both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Energy
  • Ensure sufficient funding for further education, paying attention to the needs of industry, and the value of involving employees in planning skills training.

Climate Change.

  • Develop industrial roadmaps that meet the UK’s economic and industrial needs at both regional and sectoral level, and that put the UK on track to meet its commitments to CO2 reduction under the Paris Agreement.
  • Introduce vital borrowing powers for both the British Business Bank and the Green Investment Bank; and roll back on privatisation of the Green Investment Bank.
  • Give specific consideration to how best to pursue the development of Carbon Capture and Storage technology.
  • Allow biomass to compete in this autumn’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction; award CfDs on a whole system cost basis; and give biomass conversion the same length contracts as other renewable technologies.

Banking reform

  • Conduct a review of the implementation of the ICB’s proposals to ensure that the UK develops a strong and robust banking system capable of servicing the wider economy.

Corporate governance

  • Reframe directors’ duties so the promotion of long-term success is the primary aim. Serving the interests of investors should be secondary to this central aim, as is the case for the other stakeholder groups included in Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 (employees, suppliers, customers and local communities).
  • Legislation so that shareholders’ corporate governance rights in companies should be subject to a minimum period of shareholding of at least two years.

Pension saving

  • Move to a system of flat rate tax relief at around 33 per cent in order to support low and middle income earners to save.

Opportunities for young people

  • Introduce a Job Guarantee for long-term unemployed young people.
  • Consult on the development of a new youth employment and skills service.
  • Introduce a right to fixed-hours contracts for workers who work regular hours; and mandate that workers on irregular or intermittent hours be paid an allowance to reward the flexibility they provide to employers.

Fairness in the workplace

  • Abolish employment tribunal fees so that statutory employment rights are effective in delivering the intended benefits for individuals, the economy and wider society.
  • Provide a significant increase in funding for labour market enforcement to prevent exploitative working practices and to ensure core labour standards like paying the National Minimum Wage are observed.
  • Withdraw the Trade Union Bill.
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