Labour "uncomfortable" after Osborne invokes national debt as reason for welfare cuts

Chancellor George Osborne's warning that further spending cuts will be required has put the opposition in an "uncomfortable position", a senior public affairs specialist has said.

Chancellor George Osborne: welfare cuts needed
Chancellor George Osborne: welfare cuts needed

Public affairs agency Interel director John Fearn, who leads the agency’s financial and business services sector, said Osborne’s announcement that welfare would be targeted for cuts was "provocative".

Osborne said in a speech in Birmingham this morning that £12bn in spending cuts would be needed in the first two years of the next Parliament.

He suggested welfare savings could be made by cutting housing benefit for under-25s and restricting council housing for those earning over £65,000 a year.

Osborne added that he would not target benefits to pensioners because the savings there would be relatively small.

"Osborne’s invocation of the national debt (at 91 per cent GDP) rather than the deficit to justify the cuts puts Labour in an uncomfortable position: Miliband and Balls won’t cut further, but cutting less brings accusations of profligacy," Fearn said.

He added that the approach would appeal to Conservative voters. "One might have expected the Chancellor to be more positive on the back of good national growth figures recently. But Osborne’s sombre tone is intended to portray a man telling it straight; he is being ‘open with us’, eschewing ‘easy answers’ to make ‘difficult decisions’ in the national interest.

"Doom and gloom alone don’t win votes though so his messages on tax, alongside Cameron’s promise yesterday to protect the state pension, will appeal to core Conservative voters."


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