General Election 2015: Osborne will have to abolish child benefit for four million families to meet welfare spending cuts

The Chancellor twice failed to rule out scrapping the universal payment made to all families with children as part of the Tories deficit reduction plans

George Osborne will have to abolish child benefit for over four million families to meet his commitment to cut welfare spending by £12bn in 2018, his deputy at the Treasury suggested last night.

The Chancellor yesterday twice failed to rule out scrapping the universal payment made to all families with children as part of the Tories deficit reduction plans and only paying it to those families already on benefits.

Mr Osborne has committed to the welfare cuts as part of Tory plans to reduce the deficit but has so far only said where £2bn of the savings will come from – despite repeated questioning.

He has pledged to protect all pensioner benefits which means he needs to cut the £100bn welfare bill for working age families by over 10 per cent over the two year period.

Last night experts and rival politicians suggested that such cuts were only achievable by abolishing a ‘big ticket’ universal benefit such as child support. This could save as much as £5bn a year.

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Danny Alexander said he couldn’t see how the savings could be made without ‘a radical move’ (PA)

Danny Alexander, Mr Osborne’s deputy in the Treasury, said he had analysed the numbers and could not see how Mr Osborne could make them add up without such a radical move.

“When they started talking about £12bn (in cuts) I spent a bit of time thinking about it for myself and working out what you’d have to do to achieve that,” he told The Independent.

“I think that the idea that you would take child benefit away from everyone earning more than say £15,000 is the sort of thing that they would have to consider.

“To most people, that would be utterly appalling. It’s no surprise that the Tories are trying to keep secret what they are planning to do.”

He added: “I don’t see how you can do that without either abolishing or substantially cutting benefits that are cherished by a lot of people or by drastically impoverishing some of the poorest people in the land.”

 

Rob Joyce of the respected financial think-tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies, said that Mr Osborne had made the cuts more challenging by the tight timescale in which he wanted to achieve them.

“If you want to save this kind of money by 2018, which is what the Conservatives have said, it rules out getting huge amounts of that from (benefit) freezes because you don’t have enough time to save that amount of money.

“It is possible that they could salami slice – if you did make a significant cut to housing benefit or child benefit or tax credits, and you taxed disability benefits and you restricted child contingent support to a certain number of children, and you froze benefits, you could probably get to something approaching the figure.”

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