Liberal Democrats urge Tories to come clean on cuts

March 31, 2015 5:57 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Election Spokesperson Lord Scriven has written a letter to Conservative Chairman Grant Schapps, challenging his party to come clean on their plans to slash £12bn in working-age benefits from the welfare budget.

The Tories have consistently refused to outline where their spending cuts will fall.

In a recent interview with Andrew Marr, Iain Duncan Smith couldn't give a straight answer on the question of spending plans, saying that the party "may or may decide that it's relevant" to detail where cuts are coming from:

Lord Scriven writes that the Tories are "seeking to deceive the British public" over the extent of the cuts they will make and has urged the party to release details of its welfare spending plans.

Read the full text of Lord Scriven's letter below:

Dear Grant,

I am writing to you in your role as Conservative Party Chairman following repeated refusals by your colleagues, including the Prime Minister this morning, to confirm how you will deliver your commitment to find £12bn of welfare savings. On Sunday, IDS asserted that "a quarter of what we need to save is already out there".

This is simply untrue. The IFS have noted that the latest changes to the inflation assumption mean that your proposal to freeze most working age benefits in April 16 and 17 would save little more than £1bn per year.

Your other policies, including lowering the benefits cap to £23,000 and removing Housing Benefit for jobseeker's allowance claimants aged 18 to 21 would save less than £300m in total. This leaves over £10bn of welfare savings unaccounted for.

The IFS have said your plans "would require pretty dramatic changes to things like housing benefit and disability benefits". Can you therefore confirm whether or not you are intending to target housing benefit and disability benefits as part of your plans to fill in your £10bn black hole?

I note that a party spokesman responded to the BBC story over your plans to make £12bn of welfare savings as "ill-informed and inaccurate speculation", which reduces even further the scope from which you will be able to identify the welfare savings need to make your fiscal plans add up.

Should you refuse to confirm that your party are intend to remove £10bn from housing benefit and disability benefits than the alternative scenario under your fiscal plan is even deeper cuts to public services.

On the 6th January in 2014, George Osborne said "£12bn of further welfare cuts are need in the first two years of next Parliament. That's how to reduce the deficit without even faster cuts to government departments or big tax rises on people."

Your party have been talking about finding £12bn of welfare cuts for 449 days, and yet you have consistently refused to spell out where they are coming from. If you can't tell us what the cuts will be, after 449 days work on it, it is completely unrealistic to imagine that just a few days after the general election that you will be able to magic them up.

The only credible conclusion to draw is that your plan to make £12bn of welfare savings will result in even deeper, needless cuts to key public services, like the police, schools, and adult social care. Your refusal to come clean on where you will find the remainder of your welfare savings means that you are seeking to deceive the British public over the scale of cuts you are planning on public services.

Yours sincerely,

Lord Scriven
Liberal Democrat General Election spokesperson