Cuts claims 'exaggerated': Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has risked the wrath of unions and benefit claimants by suggesting fears about the impact of public spending cuts may be "exaggerated".
Despite most Whitehall departments facing budget reductions of up to 25%, Mr Clegg said the results may not be as bad as people think.
Interviewed for the BBC's Andrew Marr show during the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool, the DPM said daily reports about the cuts were unhelpful when final decisions had yet to be taken.
"That has created a climate where arguably some people are developing fears which might even, dare I say it, turn out to be exaggerated," he added.
The intervention came hours before Chief Treasury Secretary Treasury Danny Alexander is due to tell Lib Dem activists that some trade unionists are "spoiling for a fight" and trying to "misrepresent" the coalition's aims.
More than 2,000 TUC members are due to protest near the Arena and Convention Centre over the prospect of public sector jobs being slashed and pensions downgraded.
But Mr Clegg pleaded with people to wait and see what emerged when the Comprehensive Spending Review is completed in a month's time.
"Daily now I read a huge amount of speculation about what might be taken, a decision which hasn't yet been taken," he said. "Essentially you have this vacuum where decisions have yet to be taken."
Asked whether the universality of welfare payments such as child benefit were at stake, the Lib Dem leader signalled that all options were being studied.
"We are going to look at all benefits in the round," he said.