Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

'No special treatment over cuts'

Cabinet ministers have vowed there will be no 'special treatment' for lobby groups over George Osborne's spending cuts

Cabinet ministers have vowed to stand firm against "vested interests" pleading for special treatment in the upcoming round of public spending cuts.

Lobby groups seeking exemption from the pain of next month's Spending Review must be challenged, agreed senior members of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at a special political session of Cabinet called by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ahead of the party conference season.

The meeting came a day after the president of the Police Superintendents' Association, Derek Barnett, warned that any cuts must leave forces strong enough to cope with the social and industrial tensions which could be caused by Chancellor George Osborne's austerity package.

His was the latest in a series of blood-curdling warnings of the damage the Chancellor's axe could inflict on areas ranging from the armed forces to public sector workers, schools, firefighters and benefit claimants.

The annual TUC congress in Manchester this week heard predictions of "obscene" reductions in frontline public services as a result of the billions expected to be slashed from departmental budgets.

Interventions such as the Police Federation's warning that reduced police numbers would be "Christmas for criminals" were on Tuesday denounced as "irresponsible" by Government sources.

But former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy broke ranks to voice concern about the scale of cuts in the pipeline, warning the coalition not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Tuesday's political cabinet agreed a three-point political plan for the weeks ahead of the October 20 Spending Review.

Coalition ministers will highlight recent indicators suggesting that the UK is recovering more strongly than other countries to make the argument that the Government has taken the right action for the long-term future of the economy.

They will challenge lobby groups and those with vested interests pleading for special treatment in the Spending Review. And they will take the fight to Labour by challenging the opposition to spell out exactly how it would have implemented the £44 billion savings which the party promised in its election manifesto.

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