Published on 9 Jan 2013 Sections

Coalition accused of burying bad news as audit published

The government publishes a 119-page audit of its record in power and faces Labour accusations of broken promises and trying to cover up its failings.

The audit was produced as an annexe to the coalition’s mid-term review published on Monday, but was not mentioned during a joint news conference by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

It only came to light when a No 10 aide, Patrick Rock, was spotted in Downing Street on Tuesday carrying a document which appeared to suggest its publication was delayed to avoid overshadowing the favourable media coverage they expected to receive the previous day (see picture above).

The audit does not divide the promises from the 2010 coalition agreement into those which have been met or missed, prompting Labour to accuse the government of failing to cover up a cover-up.

‘PR man’

At the first session of prime minister’s questions of 2013, Labour leader Ed Miliband described Mr Cameron as a “PR man who can’t even do a relaunch”, and said his government had broken a number of promises since coming to power.

The audit concedes that the planned cull of badgers to help control bovine TB had been “postponed”, a free vote on repealing the hunting ban had “not yet been taken forward”, and that, after pledging to cancel a third runway at Heathrow, the government has set up a commission to look at “all the options” for future airport capacity.

Mr Miliband said the coalition’s biggest broken promise was its failure to balance the nation’s books within five years, something which is not now expected to happen until 2018 at the earliest.

But today’s audit said that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility had confirmed the government was “on course to meet our fiscal mandate”, based on a rolling five-year period and not on the fixed target date of 2015.

‘Vast majority’

Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said the audit showed that the government had achieved or was making progress on “the vast majority” of its commitments.

Read the coalition government's audit

He denied the government was failing to live up to its promises on transparency by publishing it without any clear indication of how many of the 399 pledges had been broken.

Asked why the document did not include a red/amber/green system to alert voters to promises which have been missed, are under way or have been met, he said: “We are not giving a numerical update. What we have done is set out, against every single one of the commitments, progress to date.”

‘Copper bottoming’

He said the audit had not been ready for publication alongside the mid-term review on Monday because the process of “copper bottoming” its accuracy had not been completed.

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, said: “Today’s update on progress is better than having no progress update report at all, but falls short of the audit we called for last year.

“The government has provided a long list of activities it has undertaken, but has left out one vital column – outcomes.”