Brown to resist calls for more spending

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The Independent Online
GORDON BROWN warned cabinet ministers yesterday against pressing for a relaxation of spending limits on the eve of the Government's first poverty report.

Ahead of tomorrow's publication of the poverty figures, the Chancellor made clear he would resist pressure for more spending and would slap down ministers who break ranks by publicly bidding for increases in their budgets. Mr Brown secured the backing of Tony Blair for the tough strategy on spending at last week's special cabinet meeting at Chequers, amid reports that he has pounds 10bn in his war chest for the next election.

The tough line on spending will be viewed sceptically by Labour's opponents, who expect Mr Brown to produce sweeteners before the election, but the Chancellor is keen to impress the City with his determination to maintain financial discipline.

Demands for higher spending are likely to be strengthened by the publication tomorrow of the report "Tackling Poverty: Providing Opportunity for All", which will set out 32 poverty indicators, including households below half of average income, numbers of children excluded from school and truanting, and the number of babies of low birth-weight born in poor areas.

Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, and an ally of Mr Brown, hinted that there would be a shift from the old test of poverty, based on income levels, to focus more on living conditions, health, housing, education, and measures to improve standards rather than hand-outs for those reliant on benefits. Mr Darling said: "The Government is determined to tackle... poverty of opportunity, the poverty of expectations... not just income indicators, but education, health, crime and - importantly - employability too."

Pensioners, led by Baroness Castle of Blackburn, who protested in London at the weekend, are expected to take their appeal for higher pensions to the Labour conference. The Social Security Secretary said on the BBC On the Record television programme that the pledge to end child poverty within a generation would be extended to other groups of people. But that is unlikely to satisfy pensioners.

"We have raised the money going to the poorest pensioners," said Mr Darling. "What we are doing is dealing with the causes of poverty. That means getting people into work."

He refused to commit the Government to the more ambitious target of ending poverty for all. "It's very important that government is realistic about its objectives, and it should set out measures and indicators which can be achieved so that we keep focused right across the board on eradicating poverty."