The UK has run a budget deficit in all but eight years since 1946. This has left us with collective responsibility for at least £1.7 trillion in public debt, or around £25,000 for every single person in the UK.

Including extra costs which aren't included in that estimate, such as the need to support an ageing society, we could owe even more, potentially several times this official figure.  But the debt itself is only the beginning.

More immediately, we pay tens of billions every year, simply to keep up with interest payments.  In the last twelve months the UK government will have paid around £35 billion to owners of government debt. To be clear, this is money we spend every single year just on debt servicing.  Representing only the minimum payment on what we already owe, this is not  by any means "paying down the nation's debts".

At heart, Balance the Books is about reducing that figure, to give governments the room to really achieve their objectives. With the same money we spend on debt interest we could employ an army of two million nurses, or completely ban council tax.  Or we could pay for the entire HS2 project in a single year. While specific priorities should be for political parties to decide, it's clear we could be doing something better with this money  instead of transferring it to owners of government debt.

But resisting the temptation to add further to our debts is very hard for politicians. They face immense pressure to promise as much as they can to keep their jobs, regardless of how realistic those promises are. Equally, Parliament has the power to debate any government Budget. But all political parties in the House of Commons would also like to form part of the government in future, and they unfortunately face the same short-term incentives.

We want to break through the deadlock, to enshrine the principle of balancing the books in our electoral system.

Balance the Books is an independent campaign, operating beyond party politics and without corporate influence. Our objectives are to cut across standard political divides, to highlight the damage inflicted by the long-term accumulation of public debt, and demonstrate the need for permanent change in the UK’s public finances.

© 2014-17 Balance the Books Campaign

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