The state of the public finances, which have deteriorated markedly since the onset of the recession, is a major Election issue. It provoked an exchange of letters in the ‘Sunday Times’ and the ‘Financial Times’, leading to media focus on the pace of tightening in the near term. Fellows of the British Academy were signatories on both sides of the debate. The British Academy Forum on ‘The Fiscal Challenge’, held on 4 March 2010,
brought together participants in this debate, as well as other experts, to discuss the nature of the challenge and the response to it. The chairman, Professor Tim Besley FBA, summarises the discussion.