Osborne let off the hook on spending cuts

George Osborne admitted today that his cuts would be 40% greater than Labour's plans. But he was let off the hook by Evan Davies on his use of Budget numbers and "fairness" claims.

George Osborne this morning admitted that his approach to deficit reduction would result in spending cuts that were nearly half as big again as those planned by the previous Labour government. Speaking on the Today programme ahead of a speech to City analysts, he got an easy ride on his use of Budget numbers and on whether the Budget had been “fair”.

George Osborne told the BBC’s Evan Davies that:

“Of the £61bn spending cuts I have to make, £44bn were planned by Labour.”

The difference – £17 billion – amounts to a 40 per cent increase in the level of cuts. But the figures are different from those presented in either Alistair Darling’s March Budget or Osborne’s own emergency Budget in June. After the interview, Evan Davies told Left Foot Forward that, “I was bemused by that.. but didn’t have the detail to hand.”

Labour’s final Budget in March announced plans to cut public spending by £38 billion by 2013-14. The Coalition’s emergency Budget had slightly different figures. Table 1.1 compared the Coalition’s planned spending cuts of £63 billion by 2013-14 to £39 billion planned by Alistair Darling – an increase of 62 per cent. Although Labour has avoided setting out how it would make these cuts, if the party were in power its plans could have avoided all of George Osborne’s cuts to child benefit, child tax credits, and housing benefit as well as the stealth reductions in the value of public service pensions and benefits with £14 billion to spare.

Mr Osborne went on to claim that his plans were “fundamentally progressive and fair” – a demonstrably false statement. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said the, “likely … overall impact of [the emergency Budget] was regressive”. In a briefing paper for the TUC and Unison, Tim Horton and Howard Reed showed that the impact of the Coalition’s spending cuts was “deeply regressive … All households are hit considerably, but the poorest households are hit the hardest.” Analysis by Left Foot Forward showed that deprived inner-City areas will be hit the hardest by cuts to the budgets of local government.

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