Osborne's £6bn cuts boost approval rating

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George Osborne's stock among businessmen has risen since he became Chancellor and announced plans for £6bn of public spending cuts.

A ComRes survey for The Independent found that the number of businessmen who have confidence in Mr Osborne's ability has risen from 49 per cent last month to 63 per cent this month. Although 79 per cent of business leaders believe the Chancellor "lacks experience", the proportion who think he is "out of his depth" has fallen since the general election, while the number who believe he has the right ideas about how to manage the British economy has risen.

Business leaders appear to be impressed with David Cameron's start as Prime Minister. His "confidence rating" among them has risen from 66 to 77 per cent in the past month.

The ratings of Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, and Vince Cable, Business Secretary, have also increased since the Lib Dem leader and his deputy took up their posts in the Government. Confidence in Mr Clegg has grown from 41 to 68 per cent since last month, while Mr Cable's rating increased from 66 to 77 per cent.

Business leaders appear to be cautiously optimistic about the economy. Asked about their own sector, 31 per cent said growth was increasing, 20 per cent decreasing, 45 per cent that it was staying the same while 5 per cent replied "don't know".

The Government came under Labour fire yesterday for announcing its first cuts package at a Treasury press conference on Monday, rather than waiting until Parliament resumed the following day.

Alistair Darling, the shadow Chancellor, warned that the immediate cuts could damage a "still fragile" recovery. "Everyone knows it is necessary for countries across the world, ours included, to reduce the amount of borrowing, but to do it in a way that does not damage growth or the economic fabric of this country."

David Laws, the Treasury Secretary, said: "These are only the first steps that will be needed to put our public finances back in shape. But the public will welcome the fact that we finally have a government with the guts and determination to take these difficult decisions. The last government was borrowing at the rate of an additional £3bn a week – an unsustainable rate. Those huge public debts threaten financial stability and if left unchecked would derail the economic recovery." He insisted: "There is no serious economist who believes that the actions we have taken this week will jeopardise the recovery."

Mr Darling said to Mr Laws: "You campaigned explicitly on a platform of not reducing expenditure this year. Can you tell the House how cutting 10,000 university places can possibly amount to the elimination of waste? That's not being wasteful or inefficient. That's cutting the investment we will need in the future to ensure skills."