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Labour opens up sums to watchdog

Labour is to open up its election pledges to scrutiny by a spending watchdog set up by George Osborne in its battle to convince voters that it has economic "iron discipline".

Ed Balls will tell activists he needs to be "straight" with the country about the tough choices the party would have to take in office, admitting that budget cuts will need to be made to balance the books.

In a push to boost the party's fiscal credibility, the shadow chancellor intends to show how Labour's "sums add up" in the approach to the 2015 election by asking the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to independently review the costings of every spending and tax commitment in its manifesto.

It comes after Treasury minister Sajid Javid released an analysis by Treasury officials which he said showed Labour promises would require more than £1,000 extra borrowing per household in 2015.

Ed Miliband earlier described the claims as "nonsense" and insisted the party would not increase day-to-day spending in its first year of government.

Mr Balls has written to OBR chairman Robert Chote setting out the audit request, which party sources said appeared to be possible under the terms of its charter.

In his speech to the conference on Monday, he will say: "In tough times it's even more important that all our policies and commitments are properly costed and funded.

"The British people rightly want to know that the sums add up. So we will go one step further and ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility - the watchdog set up by this Government - to independently audit the costings of every individual spending and tax measure in Labour's manifesto at the next election.

"This is the first time a shadow chancellor - the first time any political party in Britain - has ever said it wants this kind of independent audit. A radical change from what's gone before, but the right thing to do to help restore trust in politics."

Earlier this month Chancellor George Osborne said Labour had "lost the argument" on calls for a "plan B" to revive the UK's fortunes after claiming the economy is "turning a corner". But Mr Balls will lay the blame for the "slowest recovery for over 100 years" at the door of the Conservatives.


From Belfast Telegraph