Leader Nick Clegg under fire from Lib Dems over his backing for Tory cuts after next general election

Pressure group warns that the party must not be locked into such 'economic illiteracy'

Nick Clegg is facing a grassroots revolt by Liberal Democrat members who claim he has signed up to another three years of deep spending cuts after the 2015 general election.

The Social Liberal Forum, the main pressure group on the left of the Lib Dems, has warned that the party will stand for nothing if it commits to more “Tory cuts” at the election and said it must not be locked into such “economic illiteracy.” It accused Mr Clegg of tearing up an agreement  between the leadership and membership on economic policy.

The forum is angry that the autumn statement delivered by George Osborne last week revealed that both coalition parties agreed that even after the annual budget deficit has been wiped out, any surplus in good years should be used to cut the remaining national debt.

The forum is close to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who is understood to share its concerns. He does not want the Lib Dems to commit to cuts beyond the 2015-16 financial year, which begins a month before the May 2015 general election.

In a warning shot aimed at the Treasury, Mr Cable said that the party would “not be locked into a Tory agenda.” He added: “Liberal Democrats have a different approach to tax and spend, in particular with an emphasis on fairness in the way the tax system operates, and our achievements in lifting low earners out of tax. Ultimately the electorate has got to decide what the outcome of the next election is, but we will go into it as a distinct party with a distinct agenda.” 

Mr Clegg has backed the idea of MPs voting on a “charter for budget responsibility” covering the post-election period that the Chancellor will publish in a year's time. The move is widely seen as a trap for Labour but Lib Dem activists fear their party has been drawn into it.

Prateek Buch, the forum's director, said  Lib Dem members should “have a say before being chained to this economic illiteracy.” He added: “Osborne plans to legislate to shrink the state, balancing the books without balancing the economy. As an independent party with our own economic vision, the Lib Dems simply cannot sign up. Lib Dems only recently agreed to prioritise investment in people, business and infrastructure over setting arbitrary targets for balanced budgets before a recovery in living standards takes hold.”

Writing on The Independent's website, he described the Osborne plan as “a political timebomb” that could have “utterly devastating consequences” for public spending. He warned that the Lib Dems would be left without “a distinctive vision on the economy” if they signed up to it.

The forum is worried that the Chancellor intends to reduce the five-year period of his “fiscal mandate”-possibly from five to three years. It fears  that this could remove the Government's ability to “borrow to invest.”

Clegg allies insist that backing the charter does not mean the party is signing up to “Osbornomics.” For example, they say, the Lib Dems will fight the election promising a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m to raise about £2bn a year.

A senior party source said: “The Lib Dems are signed up to the Coalition Government's fiscal consolidation programme, which finishes in 2017-18. Full spending plans have been agreed up to end of this Parliament (2015-16) but no specific plans have or will be agreed beyond that.”

He added: “It will be for both parties to set out at the 2015 election how they will complete the balancing of the books. The Lib Dems and the Conservatives will almost certainly have very different views on the mixture of tax rises and spending cuts required. Both parties will set out an independent fiscal policy at the next election. But the Lib Dems have also been clear that even when the books have been balanced, we must continue to get our national debt down. To not do so is unfair to our children and grandchildren and will not help us build a stronger economy in a fairer society.”

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Life and Style
Fraud contributes 11p to a £2.00 box of half a dozen eggs
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital