By Ray Fleming

THE Institute for Fiscal Studies put the cat among the pigeons yesterday by accusing the three leading parties in the British general election of failing to make clear the cuts they would make to reduce the budget deficit. The Institute has a good reputation for analysis of government finances; its director Robert Chote said that the LibDems had identified where one-quarter of their savings would come from, the Conservatives one-fifth and Labour one-eighth. Mr Chote said that the electorate should know more in order to be able to make an informed choice. He speaks as an economist but the average voter, while knowing that cuts have to be made, will probably prefer to judge on the basis of each party's broad policy approach -- whether, for instance, cuts will take into account the maintenance of essential public services and the protection of those least able to absorb additional costs arising from cuts.

Using information already provided by the parties, Mr Chote said that Labour's tax and benefit changes are “progressive as a whole” and will benefit poorer families more than the better-off to a greater extent that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat proposals. And on the key issue of when cuts should start Mr Chote said that although there would be little difference in the long run the Conservatives' plan to start cuts in the current year would take place at a time that recovery is still fragile.