George Osborne has asked Iain Duncan Smith to find even deeper cuts to benefits

Even deeper than the ones that haven't been announced yet

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The Treasury has asked Iain Duncan Smith to find deeper cuts to welfare than planned before the election, according to reports.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme says the DWP has been asked identify £15bn of welfare cuts, a jump from the £12bn promised in Conservative manifesto spending plans.

The suggestion comes after a warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that even with benefits taking £12bn of the cuts burden, reductions to other departments that run public services would be felt keenly by voters.

“The cuts that the Government announces later this year in next month’s Budget and the following Spending Review may turn out to be deliverable,” said Carl Emmerson, the institute’s deputy director, earlier this month.

“But they certainly will not feel like is just 1 per cent being taken out of each area of spending, nor will it require merely ‘£13 billion from departmental savings’ as the Conservative manifesto described.”

A goal to take more from social security could help relieve the pressure on departments but allow the Conservatives to meet their spending plans.

But even existing £12bn benefit cuts would involve “difficult decisions”, the IFS says, with over £10bn yet to be specified even at the lower figure.

Alternatively, officials could be asking the department to identify more savings than needed in order to give ministers more options when choosing which £12bn to cut.

The same programme reported last week that some of the cuts could be made by slashing £5bn from tax credits for working families, hitting 3.7m low-income households.

 

Before the election the Liberal Democrats leaked documents which appeared to suggest the Conservatives were considering cuts to tax credits and child benefit before the election.

Downing Street dismissed the documents at the time as “scaremongering”; George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith pledged to make £12bn welfare cuts before the election but would not expand on which cuts they would make.

Officials at the DWP are likely to present ministers with a list of “very, highly or extremely controversial” potential cuts to child benefits, according to documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper before the election.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions told the Independent: "The Chancellor and the Prime Minister have been very clear about the savings that will need to be made from the welfare budget on numerous occasions".

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