By Martin Kelly
Labour leader Ed Miliband has re-affirmed his party’s intention not to reverse the spending cuts imposed by the Conservatives, if Labour return to power in 2015.
Speaking at his party’s National Policy Forum in Birmingham on Saturday, the Labour leader warned that his party would be ruthless with public spending.
“Nobody here should be under any illusions: the next Labour government will have to plan in 2015 for falling Departmental spending.” Mr Miliband told delegates.
“So when George Osborne stands up next week and announces his cuts in day to day spending, we won’t be able to promise now to reverse them because we’ve got to be absolutely crystal clear about where the money is coming from.
“We will show the discipline the challenge of our times demand. It is the only way we can credibly change our country. It’s a hard reality.
“I am clear about it. Ed Balls is clear about it. And everyone in the Labour Party should be clear about it too.”
Stressing the party’s determination to bring down the UK’s huge deficit if his party formed the next government in 2015, he added: “If we win that election in 2015, we will need to be ruthless about our priorities in public spending.”
The Labour leader also signalled a return to means testing, pledging to remove the winter fuel allowance to people with an income of £43,000 and remove child benefit for people on £50,000.
Mr Miliband’s confirmation that the rate of cuts being followed by Chancellor George Osborne will not be reversed leaves the party wide open to claims of hypocrisy after they described the Tory Chancellor’s pursuit of cuts in order to bring down the deficit as “too far and too fast”.
On Wednesday Mr Osborne will announce his spending plans which will include £11.5bn of cuts in the first year after 2015.
The Chancellor is expected to claim that the UK economy is now “leaving intensive care” but that full recovery “won’t be easy”.
He will say: “We’re saving money on welfare and waste to invest in the roads and railways, schooling and science our economy needs to succeed in the future.
“I know that times are still not easy for families. But we have a clear economic plan. We’ve stuck to it. It is working. And I’m determined to go on delivering it. Now, together, we’re moving Britain from rescue to recovery let’s build an economy that works for everyone.”
With both Labour and the Conservatives both prioritising the UK deficit and planning massive spending cuts after the next UK election, Stewart Hosie MP, SNP Treasury spokesman criticised what he called an “aggressive deficit reduction”
“George Osborne has staked the entire reputation of the UK Government on aggressive deficit reduction – regardless of the dreadful economic and social cost but he has categorically failed – and on some measures borrowing is actually rising. He refuses to listen to the IMF amongst others about easing off on Westminster’s aggressive cuts programme.
“In Scotland, we have lower unemployment than the UK, higher employment, and we now have one of the lowest youth unemployment rates anywhere in the EU. The Scottish government is now taking decisions that are creating real opportunities , including major infrastructure projects at colleges in Glasgow, Inverness and Kilmarnock – the new South Glasgow Hospital development and of course the new Forth Crossing . Meanwhile George Osborne talks about shovel ready projects but fails to deliver.”
The SNP Treasury spokesman accused Labour of having, “signed up to the Osborne vision” and claimed free bus travel for pensioners and free personal care for the elderly were now under threat from what he termed, “Labour’s Cuts Commission.”
In Scotland, Labour’s Scottish Leader Johann Lamont has signalled an end to universal benefits and has recently attacked free prescriptions and the removal of University tuition fees. The Scottish Labour leader attacked Scotland’s universal benefits system which includes free personal care and free bus travel for the elderly, describing it as “something for nothing”.
Mr Hosie added: “The Scottish Government is delivering important measures right now within their limited powers which are helping, but the way to get Scottish businesses moving again and get real growth back into the economy is to have the economic and financial powers of an independent Scotland – which is why a Yes vote in the autumn 2014 referendum is so important.”