Labour and Conservative parties trade insults on deficit plans

Alistair Darling today set out a detailed 148-page dossier setting out a £34 billion “credibility gap” in the Conservative party’s spending plans. But a Conservative party protest outside the Labour party’s headquarters set out “17 questions for Mr 17%”, a reference to Tory estimates of what Labour’s spending plans will mean for “departments outside the ‘protected’ areas” of health, schools, and police numbers.

The Darling dossier set out that Conservative party tax cuts, tax reversals, and spending promises add to £14.2 billion in 2010/11 rising to £45.5 billion in 2014/15. Tax increases and spending reductions sum to £9.7 billion in 2010/11 and rise to £11.7 billion in 2014/15. The result, claims the Chancellor, is a “credibility gap” of £33.8 billion by 2014/15.

Lobby journalists at the event challenged some of the figures, including the £2.4 billion cost of abolishing the 50p rate of income tax. Labour had previously claimed that the policy was a temporary measure. But Liam Byrne outlined that every claim was backed with a quote from a Conservative party figure and used figures from publicly available documents including the Conservative party’s own costings. According to Joey Jones of Sky News, the Conservative party claim the report contains “£16.1 billion of Labour lies.” David Cameron called the report “junk”.

Using the figures in the report, the Chart below shows what the uncosted Conservative commitments would mean for deficit reduction.

To make up the £33.8 billion shortfall (or £17.7 billion according to the Tory response) and go “faster than Labour”, the Conservatives could look to right-wing think tanks for inspiration. The TaxPayers’ Alliance and Institute of Directors suggest that £1.5 billion could be saved by abolishing Sure Start. Reform have advocated abolishing universal child benefit at a saving of £7.1 billion.

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