Government spending cuts 'will cost country more'

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The "slash-and-burn" approach the Government is taking to reduce the deficit could end up costing the country more, shadow work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper claimed today.

She warned that Chancellor George Osborne's plans to cut spending will lead to rising unemployment and pointed out that Ireland's austerity measures had plunged the country back into recession.

Ms Cooper said the Government was pursuing a "really destructive strategy" and there were "dangerous signs" about the strength of the recovery.

She told the Press Association: "We have to bring the deficit down in a way that supports the economy and supports jobs.

"The problem with what the Tory-Liberal Democrat Government are doing is that this slash-and-burn approach, this cutting too far and too fast will mean more people on unemployment benefit, it will mean more people out of work, it will mean fewer jobs in the economy. In the end that costs us more.

"That will actually push up the bills of unemployment and make it harder to bring the deficit down. I think that's a really destructive strategy and of course it also makes it much harder for families across the country and puts our public services at risk at well."

She added: "I think what we need to reflect on is what is happening in the economy right now, what are the risks at the moment."

Ms Cooper said Ireland's "sharp austerity drive has pushed that country into double-dip recession".

"And we've seen here, too, vacancies have fallen over the summer, we've seen an increase in claimant count unemployment for the first time since January.

"Those are dangerous signs and I think those are the things that Ed Miliband will want to take into account when reflecting on how to respond to what we know is a deeply destructive plan from the Government."

Ms Cooper has been tipped as a potential shadow chancellor but she refused to be drawn on whether she would like the job, which her husband Ed Balls has also been linked to.

She said: "I think that would be deeply presumptuous of me. We haven't even had a shadow cabinet election yet and I think it's for the new leader to decide what he does with his team."

In a speech to activists, Ms Cooper said she worried about the future for her two young daughters.

"All my life I have assumed that each generation of women would do better than the last," she said.

"I know I've had more choices, more opportunities than my mother and my grandmother, not least because of the battles they won. With each generation, I assumed, we would break more glass ceilings, change more of the world.

"But now, for the first time, I worry about my daughters, about all our daughters. For the first time I worry that our daughters will have fewer chances in life than we did.

"Conference, for women across Britain, backed by the Labour Party, the fightback starts here."

She said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had compared the public finances with a household budget.

"But think about it, because this is a family with a choice to make," she said.

"It's a family with a mortgage who cut the repayments when dad lost his job in the recession - to make sure they could get by 'til he found work, and to make sure the family didn't lose their home.

"And now they have a choice - make good those repayments steadily, bit by bit, go for some extra overtime or promotion, tighten their belts a little, but spread the payments sensibly.

"Or follow the George Osborne plan - pay it off all at once. Sell the furniture, the car that gets mum to work, sell the dog, even the house itself - whatever it takes to get the debt down.

"The truth is that every family knows cutting back too far too fast causes deep damage and ends up costing you far, far more."