Liberal Democrat Election Spokesperson Lord Scriven has today (30 March) written to Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps, demanding that his party comes clean on their plans to slash working-age benefits.
The Tories have so far resisted pressure to admit how they would cut £12 Billion from welfare spending, with Iain Duncan Smith unable or unwilling to provide a detailed answer.
The call from the Liberal Democrats mirrors those made by Labour and others parties, and comes after leaked emails appeared to show how a range of benefits would be cut if the Tories win May’s general election.
Despite the revelation, Iain Duncan Smith claimed that no decision has been made on where the axe would fall.
Lord Scriven’s letter to Grant Shapps reads:
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.
Liberal Democrat General Election spokesperson