Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has said that he will push ahead with plans to cut £12bn in welfare spending, despite previous reports that Conservative party campaign promises would be reined in under the new government.
Writing with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith in The Sunday Times, Osborne said that he would “set out in detail all the steps we will take to bring about savings totalling £12bn a year” in next month’s emergency summer budget. Further details will be published in the next Whitehall spending review, due out in the autumn, Osborne and Duncan Smith said.
Despite the relative lack of detail, the two ministers said that the majority Conservative government would deliver on its campaign vow to reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. They added: “We need to make significant savings from other working-age benefits.”
While Osborne and Duncan Smith did not identify the “other” benefits over the weekend, it is widely believed that housing benefits and tax credits could fall under the axe.
The ministers also seized the opportunity to criticise the Labour party for past governments’ spending policies, and appealed to the party’s leadership candidates to “engage constructively with us and to support the further savings we must undertake.”
But Labour leadership front-runner Andy Burnham rapidly rejected the invitation, calling Osborne’s plans “disgraceful.”
“It is questionable whether he has a mandate for cuts on this scale because he didn’t spell out before the election where these cuts were going to fall,” Burnham said on Sky News. “That is wrong.”
Osborne’s announcement came one day after tens of thousands of anti-austerity protesters marched from the Bank of England to Westminster in opposition of further cuts. Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn was the only Labour leadership hopeful in attendance.