The Institute has previously argued the benefits of allowing the opposition parties to have their policies independently costed in advance of an election. At present, the rules of the game are tipped in favour of the government. The governing party (or parties) has access to civil servants and policy costings during their term. They can also ask officials to cost opposition party policies, albeit using their own assumptions: earlier this year the Conservatives published Treasury analysis suggesting that Labour’s manifesto contained £21bn of unfunded spending. A media spat ensued with Labour denying the claims, but with voters left little clearer on what the true cost of policies would be. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) could help to remove such confusion and prevent pre-emptive policy costing for political gain. The OBR was set up in part to scrutinise the cost of government policies. It does not produce policy costings from scratch but publically endorses (or rejects) costings calculated by departments. At present, legislation precludes the OBR from considering non-governmental policies. If this were changed, the OBR could provide a similar level of scrutiny and an endorsement service for all policies, of government and opposition parties alike. There are numerous advantages […]

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