Chancellor George Osborne’s spending plans for the next Parliament would force the Tories to reduce the Army to its smallest size since Oliver Cromwell and the police service to its smallest since comparable records began, Ed Balls claimed.
Painting an apocalyptic vision of Britain under a future Tory government, the shadow chancellor suggested the Conservatives’ plans for deficit reduction and tax cuts would lead to £70bn of public sector spending cuts after this year.
He said Labour’s analysis suggested the “unprecedented” scale of the cuts meant the Tories would not be able to protect NHS spending without bringing in charges.
But the Tories accused Mr Balls of “making up [numbers] on the back of an envelope”, adding: “It just shows how chaotic Labour are and why they are really not in a position to run this country. ”
Paul Johnson, director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the £70bn figure was based on “a particular set of assumptions” of what the Tories would do if they were elected, “and in particular says that the Conservatives will do what the Autumn Statement numbers say they will do – which is a bit different from the fiscal rules they have set themselves.
“There is a difference of about £25bn or £30bn between the two parties in terms of the level of fiscal consolidation, and therefore the sorts of levels of spending cuts they are talking about.”
Mr Balls claimed the Tories were not being honest about the true scale of spending cuts that would be necessary under their plans. “They can either say that these unprecedented, extreme and close-to-impossible cuts to our police, Armed Forces and social care are the true consequences of their spending plans, or they can confess their plans are in fact impossible to achieve without breaking their promise to protect the NHS,” he said.
“If David Cameron and George Osborne cannot spell out how their sums add up, the British people can only conclude that alternative plans do exist: to cut NHS spending and introduce charging.”
Mr Balls said that if the Tories kept their promises to protect spending on health, schools and overseas aid, it would mean wiping out other elements of government.
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“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Transport would actually have no day-to-day budgets left at all, while others such as DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government] would almost cease to exist.”
But the Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said the IFS put the size of the consolidation planned by the Tories at £30bn, and insisted the party had already shown how it would deliver this through £12bn of welfare cuts, £13bn from reductions in departmental spending and £5bn from action to close tax loopholes.
Accusing Mr Balls of making “wild accusations”, Mr Shapps said: “He says we will be taking government finances back to the days of Cromwell. Nonsense. The IFS says we will be taking spending back to the years 2003 and 2004, when as far as I know it wasn’t Cromwell in the Treasury, it was one Ed Balls.”Reuse content