Fury at Tory 'untruths and errors' as George Osborne claims Labour has £20bn of unfunded spending pledges

The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls says in turn that Conservatives have made £7bn a year of unfunded tax promises

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Labour claimed the Conservatives’ opening shot in the general election campaign had backfired today as the Opposition rejected George Osborne’s claim that it had made £20.7bn of unfunded spending pledges.

The Chancellor warned that a Labour government would create economic chaos as he published an 82-page dossier listing £18.074bn of new spending promised by Labour; £5.189bn of cuts Labour would reverse and £2.517bn of revenue Labour would raise. He claimed that would result in £20.746bn of unfunded spending in the 2015-16 financial year. 

Mr Osborne, flanked by four other Cabinet ministers, told an election-style Westminster press conference that Labour's policy proposals would require the equivalent of an extra £1,200 of borrowing for every household.

The Chancellor George Osborne (second right) gestures alongside Culture Minister Sajid Javid (left), Education Minister Nicky Morgan (second left) and Home Secretary Theresa May (right) as Britain's three main political parties began campaigning in earnest (REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

The Chancellor said the dossier showed that Labour had “not demonstrated the fiscal discipline or economic competence that earns an opposition the credibility to form a government.” He added: “The evidence shows they are a risk to economic recovery. So the British people have a clear choice at the next election - continue on the road to a stronger economy with a competent Conservative team that have a long-term plan or choose the chaos of over £20 billion of unfunded spending promises, higher taxes and more borrowing offered by the alternatives which would take us back to the economic mess Britain was in five years ago.

"Competence or chaos. That is the choice. Let's not throw it all away, let's work through the plan."

But even as Mr Osborne was speaking, Labour issued strong denials of  some of the claims in the dossier. For example,  Labour insisted that it was not the party’s policy to ban food waste from landfill sites, which the Tories claimed would cost £477m.  Labour also denied that it would reverse more than £5bn of cuts, including £3.3bn to local government and £83m to the Arts Council.  Labour dismissed as “nonsense” a Tory claim that it would boost cycling at a cost of £63m.

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Tory sources admitted that some of their calculations had been “reasonable assumptions” based on speeches by Opposition  frontbenchers, but insisted that the vast majority were from Labour policy documents or statements.  The Tories said the costings had been signed off by neutral Treasury civil servants, in line with normal pre-election practice.

But Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, replied: “This dodgy Tory dossier is riddled with untruths and errors on every page. It isn't an impartial exercise but a political smear based on false assumptions made by Tory advisers, including dozens of claims which are not even Labour’s policies.

“Labour has made no unfunded spending or tax commitments. In contrast the Tories have made over £7 billion a year of unfunded tax promises. George Osborne failed to explain today how they would be paid for.”