Friday, 26 March 2010

The £5bn Tory black hole

The Conservatives have found a way of digging themselves into even deeper trouble on their economic plans. Like other parties, they recognise that public spending needs to be heavily cut in order to balance the books.

But the Conservatives have refused to say how all except a tiny proportion of those cuts will be funded. They have said that NHS spending, overseas aid and some spending on assistance for older people will not be cut - but they haven't said what will go. We are told by experts that, having 'saved' some services, everything else will have to be cut by an average of 25%.

Now they have decided that this hole is not deep enough and they have come up with another unfunded promise. They will not implement the 1% hike in National Insurance due next year. That pledge will cost another £5 billion (or £7bn or £10 bn according to some newspapers). How will they pay for this? They won't say.

Contrast this with the Liberal Democrats who also recognise that public spending needs to be cut - but not until the economy is strong enough to take it.

We have identified programmes like the like for like replacement for Trident, ID cards, biometric passports and child trust funds as things that could and should be cut. Unlike the tories, we are being honest about what we will cut. Why can't they?

Next Monday, Channel 4 are hosting a debate among the chancellors - Alistair Darling, George Osbourne and Vince Cable will be debating their respective plans. Let's hope George has done his sums by then.

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