Osborne says spending cuts have only just begun
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has identified that the current administration will look to make at least £25 billion of public spending cuts in the next six years, should the Tory party prevail in the 2015 General Election.
Of this £25 billion, Mr Osborne cited that £12 billion would be from a reduction in the governmentís benefit budget, arguing that a smaller state and a welfare system are essential to achieving a full economic recovery and an improvement in the standing of the state.
The Chancellor said that social housing for those under 25 or earn more than £65,000 would be key areas targeted, arguing that there are up to 20,000 people in the UK currently who should start to make payments that ëbetter reflect what they can affordí.
Mr Osborne also hit back at his Labour critics, robustly rejecting notions of him being out of touch and solely concerned with economic performance. The Chancellor argued that the level of public spending that the opposition have been advocating is simply not financially viable, and hit out at them for ësimply not being straight with peopleí about the reality of the governmentís current monetary situation.
Mr Osborne said: "Thanks to the hard work of the British people, our economy is on the mend - and our country is doing better.
"But what was hard won can be easily lost. So we have a choice in 2014. We can give up, go back to square one, and risk everything.
"Or we can confront the hard truth that more difficult decisions are needed - and work through the plan that is turning Britain around. I say: 'let's finish the job'."
"Welfare cannot be protected from further substantial cuts.
"I can tell you today that, on the Treasury's current forecasts, £12bn of further welfare cuts are needed in the first two years of the next Parliament."
Mr Osborne also identified that the creation of a more affluent and wealthy state was dependent on the erosion of the current welfare state, and outlined his plan to roll back the role of the state so that the government plays a smaller role in the financial lives of its citizens.
He added that reducing welfare distribution was the best way of tackling the countryís deficit, as any other courses of action would involve an increase in taxes or cuts in vital areas such as education.
The Chancellor also gave no indication that the rumours circulating about pensioner welfare cuts are true, identifying his intent to keep the current free bus pass and winter fuel deal within the budget.
Social housing for young people aged below 25 and benefit distribution to youths are the areas that Mr Osborne has signalled his intent to attack, citing that these areas will likely experience benefit cuts sometime in the near future.
However, Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched an attack on the Conservative stance towards public spending, arguing that they are making ëcuts for cuts sakeí, and are sacrificing the wellbeing of those who are on benefits in order to attain their economic goals towards the countryís deficit.
Mr Clegg said that there was now a wide gap in the economic visions of the countryís main parties, and said that whilst he agreed with the fiscal nature of the Tory path, that it nevertheless should be done in a manner that is fair to all, rather than those who are relatively affluent and wealthy.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls launched a far more scathing attack, reiterating past Labour sentiments by attacking what he perceives to be Mr Osborneís prioritisation of the economy over the standard of living of the people in the UK.
Mr Balls said: "George Osborne is desperate to stop talking about the cost-living crisis on his watch. But that won't stop working people from doing so as they are on average £1,600 a year worse-off under the Tories and prices are still rising faster than wages.
"Nor will the Chancellor admit the reason why he is being forced to make more cuts is because his failure on growth and living standards has led to his failure to balance the books by 2015.
With the 2015 General Election looming larger every day, it is certain that the three major parties in the UK will desperately try and present themselves in a manner that is different from the other.
The reality is however that the size of the state will inevitably be forced to shrink in the next few years, regardless of the party in power, though the question is whether one faction in society should bear the brunt of these costs in order for the country to attain its economic goals.