Shortly after the Coalition Government was formed it introduced an Emergence Budget, and since then it has held 5 Budgets and 5 Autumn Statements.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer has used these to announce a series of cuts to public expenditure.  These announcements have affected a number of public services, notably social security (or welfare benefits and tax credits).  However, what contribution has social security made to the overall cut in public spending?

One answer is provided by data published by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).  The OBR lists Treasury’s policy measures and the amount of expenditure involved.  In some instances the policy measures result in an increase in public spending; for example, the additional amount made available to local authorities for discretionary housing payments.  However, cuts in social security spending dominate so that the net effect of the measures is for a financial saving in each year.

The Table below shows that since 2011-12 changes in social security spending account for a significant proportion of the cuts and they peak at 53% for 2014-15 and 2015-16.  No other spending head makes as much a contribution to total spending savings as social security.

Spending 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Social security £m 375 2090 6655 12260 16915 19748 22463 23713 25006
% 7% 26% 32% 50% 53% 53% 47% 43% 44%
All policy measures £m 5245 8025 20545 24540 31945 37336 47971 54759 57179

Source: OBR, Policy measures spreadsheet.

Note:  Some of the policy measures are coded as ‘Social Security benefits’ but other spending heads  also include social security expenditure, notably tax credits.  The figures presented in this Table include all social security related spending in the OBR data regardless of their budget spending head.

The implication of the Table is clear; austerity is significantly underpinned by cuts to the principal system used in the UK for protecting the most vulnerable in society.

A copy of this blog can also be found at:  Public and Social Policy