Labour willing to cut benefits for the wealthy

LABOUR is willing to break its ideological commitment to universal benefits in order to help cut the national debt, Ed Balls will say this morning.

The shadow chancellor will say that the welfare system should become more targeted and call on his party to admit "it can no longer be a priority" to provide payments such as the winter fuel allowance to wealthy pensioners at a time when public finances are stretched.

Balls will use the speech at Reuters' Canary Wharf HQ to say that if Labour wins the 2015 general election it will have to "govern in a very different way" to the Blair and Brown administrations due to the severe restraints on public spending.

However, he will not announce any firm spending commitments.

The set-piece event is part of a renewed push by the Labour leadership to convince voters that they can be trusted with the public finances at a time when Tory strategists are increasingly optimistic that the economy is showing signs of growth.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to follow up Balls' speech by backing plans for a cap on welfare payments later in the week.