An audit of the U.K. government’s performance produced by David Cameron’s ministers and civil servants doesn’t mention that it’s on course to miss the deficit-reduction targets it set itself in 2010.
The 122-page document notes that the premier’s coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was committed to setting such goals in its first budget after taking power in May 2010, calling deficit reduction a matter of “urgency.”
While the aim Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne set himself at the time was to be reducing debt by 2015, the Treasury said last month it will take until 2018 to eradicate the structural deficit. Today’s document, published by Cameron’s office in London, is even less clear-cut.
“In the past two years it has fallen by a quarter,” the audit assessment of the deficit said. “It is currently forecast to continue to fall further in every year of this Parliament,” which runs until 2015.
“The primary reason given for the coalition government in 2010 was to reduce the deficit,” Steven Fielding, professor of politics at Nottingham University, said in a telephone interview. “It says everything you need to know about this exercise that they don’t mention they’re behind target. This document is the sort of thing companies leave in their foyers that no one reads.”
Cameron told lawmakers in Parliament in London today before the document was released that it would deliver a “full, frank and completely unvarnished” assessment of how the coalition has performed, adding it was “a record to be proud of.”
The opposition Labour Party released its own “audit of broken promises,” identifying 40 areas in which the government had not met pledges.
On deficit reduction, Labour said Cameron failed “to balance the books” as promised in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry in 2010.
The joint Tory-Liberal Democrat document, entitled “Program for Government Update,” was produced as an annex to the coalition’s Mid-Term Review, marked by a joint news conference between Cameron and Clegg two days ago.
The audit published today first came to public attention when photographers outside Cameron’s office spotted an aide carrying it yesterday.
“The aim of the document is to go through one by one each of the commitments that were in the program for government and that’s what it has done,” Cameron’s spokesman Jean-Christophe Gray told reporters in London. “A reading of the document allows you to get an update on each of the commitments in the coalition agreement. We have either achieved or are making progress on the vast majority of them.”