Britain faces a longer-term fiscal challenge. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that by 2030 Britain will once again move into deficit because long-term trends look set to increase the demand on public services while restricting future tax revenues.

The paper calls on politicians to start a public debate now about the scale of this challenge and the kind of decisions it requires us to make. Whoever wins the next or future general elections will be faced with difficult choices. Will taxes have to rise to pay for rising health, social care and pension costs? In a tight fiscal climate, which services should be prioritised and which not? How can we improve the productivity of public services over the long term?

This paper draws on a seminar organised by IPPR and the CBI and involving experts in demography, public policy and service delivery to set out:

  • the nature of the long-term trends that will shape the health of the public finances over the next two decades and beyond
  • the impact of those demographic, economic and social trends on government revenue and expenditure
  • the kind of choices that policymakers, whether on the left or right, will have to confront over the next two decades.