Belfast Telegraph

Leaders are accused of deception over spending cuts

By Andrew Grice

Britain's political leaders are being accused of deceiving the public by failing to disclose the extent of their planned spending cuts, as the tightest election campaign in recent memory gets under way.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are keeping voters in the dark about the impact of likely cuts until after polling day, the Coalition's adviser on poverty, Alan Milburn, said.

His criticism came as the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies dismissed David Cameron's claim that Labour would raise taxes by more than £3,000 for the average working household by 2020, and said both main parties should come clean about their tax and spending plans.

Mr Milburn added to the pressure on the Tories to spell out the detail of their proposed £12bn welfare cuts before the May 7 election. Options drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions, leaked to the BBC last week, include taxing disability benefits and a regional benefits cap.

Ministers insist no decisions have been taken - and may not reveal their plans until after polling day.

"Detail here may not be the politician's friend, but it is the voter's friend," he said. "For both Ed Balls and George Osborne, there is an equal necessity to spell out exactly how they aim to balance the books, not just when."

Rebuking Mr Cameron for his £3,028 Labour "tax bombshell" claim, the IFS said: "There is little value in bandying around numbers which suggest that either party would increase taxes by an average of £3,000 for each working household." But it also said there was "real uncertainty" about Labour's proposals for the public finances, and that the Tories have been "clearer about what they want to achieve".

Chris Leslie, the shadow Chief Treasury Secretary, said: "This is a disastrous and embarrassing start to David Cameron's campaign.

A Tory source insisted: "The IFS didn't say our figure was wrong."

Belfast Telegraph


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