Tories drop target for cutting Whitehall waste

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Indy Politics

The Tory Party quietly ditched Iain Duncan Smith's controversial pledge to cut Whitehall waste by 20 per cent yesterday as it launched a new drive to identify savings to fund future tax cuts.

Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, told The Independent that the party no longer had a "single figure" or target for savings from needless bureaucracy.

Mr Letwin stressed that it would now be up to the party's new waste audit, headed by the former Millennium Dome troubleshooter David James, to come up with areas of spending that were vulnerable to reform.

Michael Howard, the party leader, launched the audit alongside Mr James and Mr Letwin at the Millennium Dome site in Greenwich. Mr Howard said that the failed Dome project was a classic example of the wasted spending under Labour.

Mr Duncan Smith was accused repeatedly by Tony Blair of planning to cut Government spending across the board because of a pledge by Howard Flight, his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to cut waste by 20 per cent.

Mr Duncan Smith failed to kill off the issue and it looked certain to dominate the next general election. But yester-day Mr Letwin made it clear that the new audit offered the first chance to make a clean break with Mr Duncan Smith's 20 per cent figure.

"There is no single figure that we have got in mind. What there is is an earnest desire to find, not just now, but also when we are in Government, more and more ways of spending money better so we get a better bang for our buck," he said.

"We may have differences of view on what you should save money on. The difference will be whether you use that money to contain the growth in public spending in order to be able to achieve a lower tax economy over time or whether you use it in order to spend yet more and tax more."

But Douglas Alexander, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, was scathing about the Tory iniative, claiming that it had been launched last year by Mr Flight.

"It is another second-hand reannouncement and you would have thought they would have learnt something from last week's embarrassing fiasco of Michael Howard's so-called credo rehashed from Rockefeller," he said.