By Kenneth Gibb

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The other ways of raising money are either to extend or increase charges (for example, prescription charges) or to sell assets (as in privatisation). Assets can, of course, only be sold once. These decisions have major implications politically, economically and in terms of the quality of life of the population. The basic problem that faces the government, each year, is to plan that year's spending and then to raise the appropriate amount of money in the annual Budget. The alterations implemented in tax regimes and expenditure plans announced in the Budget (which is presented to Parliament in March each year) are intended to attain this balance.

This is obviously an 'equity' motive, as the (implicit) reasoning is that without these measures people would not be able to afford the housing we consider they 'need', or that society would deem to be adequate and acceptable. For an economist this raises the question of redistributing income. If poor people cannot afford (demand) adequate housing, why not simply raise their income by taxing the rich and providing poorer households with enough income to afford (demand) what they 'need'? Economic analysis of social policy has two answers to this question: (i) Housing is a 'merit good'; that is, as a society we take the view that we want to ensure that people are able to attain a minimum acceptable standard of housing.

The 1980s. 1). 1 shows the breakdown of expenditure across various functions of government in 1996-7 and changes in spending since 1980-1. 1 shows that: • Social security is by far the biggest single area of expenditure, accounting for over one-third of the total. 5 per cent of the total, respectively. • Direct expenditure on housing is relatively small, at less than 2 per cent of the total, (excluding Housing Benefit and other social security costs). • Investment in housing has suffered the largest real cuts.

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