Chancellor George Osborne indicates he will target the welfare budget for much of the £25bn of cuts that must be made from 2015.
A further £25bn of cuts must be made after the next election if the Government is to eliminate the UK’s deficit, Chancellor George Osborne has said.
Mr Osborne, who will set out his priorities for the next 12 months in a speech later this morning saying 2014 will be “the year of hard truths”, indicated he would be looking to the welfare budget to make those savings.
The Chancellor also suggest he supported keeping generous benefits for pensioners such as winter fuel payments and free bus passes following some confusion on Sunday about whether David Cameron would pledge to keep them in the election run-up.
Mr Osborne said cutting the benefits for “wealthy pensioners” would save only “tens of millions” and that if he were looking to make savings, that would not be an area he would target.
Instead he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would instead target housing benefits for under 25s, saying it seemed unfair that hard-working 25-year-olds who could not afford their own homes were having to live with parents.
The elderly are a key target group for the election as pensioners are more likely to vote, making politicians eager to win their support. Mr Cameron kicked off an economic offensive on Sunday by committing to sustained rises in the state pension until 2020.
In his speech in Birmingham, the Chancellor is to warn that despite an improved economic outlook there is “still a long way to go”.
He will suggest Labour wants to take Britain back to “borrowing and spending and living beyond our means – and let the next generation pay the bill”.
Mr Osborne will tell voters that tax cuts can only be afforded if further significant reductions are made in the public spending the revenues paid for.
“As a result of the painful cuts we’ve made, the deficit is down by a third and we’re borrowing nearly £3,000 less for every one of you and for every family in the country,” he will say.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is: there’s still a long way to go.
“We’re borrowing around £100bn a year – and paying half that money a year in interest just to service our debts. We’ve got to make more cuts.
“That’s why 2014 is the year of hard truths. The year when Britain faces a choice.
“Do we say ‘the worst is over; back we go to our bad habits of borrowing and spending and living beyond our means – and let the next generation pay the bill’.
“Or do we say to ourselves ‘yes, because of our plan, things are getting better. But there is still a long way to go and there are big, underlying problems we have to fix in our economy’.”
But shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “George Osborne should admit his policies have failed and led to a cost-of-living crisis.
“While millions of ordinary working people are worse off under the Tories, he and David Cameron are paving the way for yet another top-rate tax cut for millionaires.
“The reason more spending cuts are needed after 2015 is because his failure on growth and living standards since 2010 has led to his failure to balance the books.