Tories said that the debt would be down by now this latest round of cuts is there failed economic policy causing hardship and fear to the ordinary hard working people whilst their rich mates get tax breaks. There is huge tax gap in this country caused by failed employment policy, Giving the rich tax breaks and tax dodgers in corporate business. This government has failed to bring the debt down because its economic policies are wrong Ed Balls is right. The Tory Lib legacy is more debt, more unemployment, less public services, more inequality, tax breaks for the rich, bigger bonuses for failing banks, teacher strikes, food banks, Increase in the suicide rate, more homeless.
For example: Name me one thing they have done that has benefited hard working families. They have reduced living standards, for the disabled and increased child poverty and caused a double dip recession. I can’t wait till we kick them out in 2015. Labour prepare for government.
I am unsure who is the most reprehensible character in government on Wednesday 26th Jun 13 Cameron, Osborne or Alexander. After listening to Danny Alexander in the House of Commons today, there is nothing to separate them. The Speaker had to admonish him for not replying to the questions as put by Christopher Leslie the Shadow Treasury Minister; this is a trait that he has learned from Cameron. The Speaker said that he must not dilate in his reply to questions,(he was once again expounding on labour’s deficit) and not answering the question. On top of the Speaker rebuking Osborne for asking questions of Ed Balls yesterday and reminding people of higher office not to do the same, I do hope that the Speaker is preparing to do the same to Cameron at the next PMQ,s session. It would be about time that he did. As George Osborne showed on PMQs this government is running on empty, the lib-dem’s should find a backbone and end this farce.
What a day it has been during the Prime Minister Question Time I have to say that it’s the third time that I have witnessed that Ed Miliband from the public gallery performing well by seeking answers from David Cameron over the budget which I felt that David Cameron felt under pressure.
We now know why the coalition is so desperate,Local government will again be the biggest loser on the chancellor, George Osborne, unveils £11.5bn of overall spending cuts in 2015-16, an end to automatic pay progression, and a further round of public-sector job losses.
Local government is expected to get a 10% budget cut in Wednesday’s spending review (26Jun13). But, in what will be the last set-piece announcement of spending cuts before the election, Osborne confirmed that the budgets for health, schools and international aid would be protected.
Funding for security services will also be well shielded from cuts, and the budget for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ could rise.
Osborne is also preparing to unveil details of a consultation on a long-term welfare spending cap, which would cover disability benefits and housing benefit.
But Osborne will try to put Labour on the back foot by challenging Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, to accept the need for more cuts in the two years after 2015-16, and to admit that Labour’s plans involve borrowing more, before and after the election.
Osborne is also expected to announce measures to end duplication in the delivery of local services, through an initiative called community budgets, which is expected to be capable of saving as much as £4bn in a single year.
He is also to set out the size of the single local growth fund, created in response to Lord Heseltine’s growth review last year. Heseltine suggested a pot of £49bn over four years, but is likely to end up with a much smaller sum due to resistance from the business department.
The chancellor is likely to say he will look – albeit without commitment – at proposals from the finance commission of London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, which deal with a radical devolution of tax-raising powers, such as stamp duty and council tax, in the capital.
Grant Shapps, a former housing minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, spelt out the plan for a further 10% cut, saying this could be won via efficiencies, without need for frontline services cuts.
Shapps said: “When we said we would reduce the budgets by 26% over the four years, we were told councils would be going bust by this stage of the parliament. Not a single council has gone bust. A lot of that is credit to them, because they have managed to cut their cloth more intelligently.”
He said council cash reserves had risen. “If they are that cash-strapped, how are they managing to put more money into their reserves? No, I think they can do another 10%. I think they will have to be very thoughtful and creative in terms of performing services.”
The insurer Zurich Municipal said local government had shed more than 416,000 staff since 2010, equivalent to a 14.3% fall, taking the total to a record low not seen since September 2006.
But with more spending cuts to come a further 16.1% fall in jobs is expected by the end of 2017-18, equivalent to 484,000 staff.
In the budget this year public-sector pay awards were to be limited to 1% in 2015-16, but reform to the system of “automatic progression pay would bring further savings”: even in an era of public-sector pay restraint some people were still receiving annual pay increases of 7%.
Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Treasury chief secretary, and a central figure in the negotiations over the past year, is expected to announce a further extension of community budgets.
All authorities will be told they can “take advantage” of the lessons from the four whole-place community budget pilots – Greater Manchester, Cheshire West and Chester council, the west London tri-borough project, and Essex. These involved the redesign of both council and central government services around a single funding pot.
Alexander will make a separate “good news” statement on Thursday setting out government plans for investment in specific infrastructure projects, such as the A14 corridor in East Anglia.
The business secretary, Vince Cable, was the last cabinet minister to settle on Sunday night, and is believed to be pleased he has protected budgets for apprentices and science. But there is concern that further education has taken a hit.
In an effort to show the Treasury he was serious about cutting costs Cable commissioned external advisers to look at ways of bringing down the running costs of the department.
Chris Leslie, the shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “This spending review is happening because David Cameron and George Osborne’s economic plan has failed.
“Three years of falling living standards and a flatlining economy has led to billions more borrowing to pay for economic failure. Far from balancing the books by 2015, as the government promised, the chancellor is being forced to make even more cuts.”
Millions of public sector workers face losing automatic annual pay increases as part of an £11.5bn cuts package unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne.
He also announced a cap on total welfare spending and axed winter fuel payments for expatriate pensioners in hot countries from 2015.
Welfare changes mean most unemployed people will have to visit a JobCentre every week instead of fortnightly.
The cuts package will cover a single financial year – 2015-16.
It was forced on the chancellor by slower than expected economic growth and deficit reduction, but he insisted the economy was on the right track, telling MPs: “Britain is moving out of intensive care and moving from rescue to recovery.”
But shadow chancellor Ed Balls, for Labour, said the new round of cuts represented a “comprehensive failure” of Mr Osborne’s economic strategy.
Other key announcements from the chancellor’s statement include:
- Total annual spending on welfare, including housing benefit, disability benefit, tax credits and pensioner benefits – but excluding the state pension – will be capped for the first time, from April 2015
- Local government will take the biggest hit, with cuts at the Department for Communities and Local Government of 10%
- The Home Office must save 6% from its budget, but the police budget will be cut by a lower 4.9% and counter-terror policing will be spared
- The culture department escapes the worst of the cuts with expected savings of 7%
- Science and research funding will remain flat
- The NHS, schools in England and foreign aid will continue to be protected from budget cuts
- The security services were the biggest winners, with a 3.4% boost to funding and Mr Osborne praising their “heroic” efforts to “protect us and our way of life”
Mr Osborne said the cuts, which will kick in just before the next general election, would ensure Britain “lives within its means”, but they would be guided by fairness, economic growth and reform.
Public sector pay rises are frozen at 1% until 2015-16 but Mr Osborne is to scrap so-called progression pay, where civil servants automatically move up through pay grades.
In addition, the Treasury says “substantial reforms” to progression pay will be taken forward, or are already under way, for teachers, the health service, prisons and the police, “ensuring that public sector workers do not receive pay increases purely as a result of time in post”.
Mr Osborne told MPs: “Progression pay can at best be described as antiquated; at worst, it’s deeply unfair to other parts of the public sector who don’t get it, and to the private sector who have to pay for it.”
And he announced a tougher regime for jobseekers, saying they will have to visit a Job Centre every week to spend more time with advisers. There will also be a seven-day wait before people can initially claim benefits.
“Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on,” said Mr Osborne.
“We’re doing these things because we know they help people stay off benefits and help those on benefits get back into work faster.”
In a further change, claimants who cannot speak English “will have to attend language courses until they do”.
The “temperature test” for winter fuel allowance will apply to expatriate pensioners living in Portugal, Spain, Greece, France, Gibraltar and Cyprus.
With health, education and aid ring-fenced, all other departments will have to take a bigger hit – average budget cuts for 2015-16 of between 8% and 10%.
The Department for Communities and Local Government, the Treasury and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were among the hardest hit, with 10% budget cuts.
Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the last to reach a deal with Mr Osborne after tough negotiations, got off relatively lightly with cuts of 6% and a commitment to keep money for more apprenticeships, but student grants will be frozen.
The Ministry of Defence will face further cuts to its civilian workforce as its budget was maintained in cash terms at £24bn – representing a real-terms cut.
The Department for Transport will be forced to make savings of 9% in day-to-day spending, but will get the largest boost of any department in its capital spending, which rises to £9.5bn in 2015-16.
Mr Osborne also said the government would spend £2m to “look at the case for” a £12bn Crossrail 2 project in London, which is backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, and announced £3bn more for affordable housing in 2015. Further details of capital spending plans are expected on Thursday.
Capital spending is down in real terms but is falling at a slower rate than forecast by the previous Labour government, Treasury sources insist.
The chancellor announced that the council tax freeze, due to come to an end next April, would be extended for the next two years. He said that would mean nearly £100 off the average council tax bill for families.
But he warned of 144,000 further public sector job cuts and said local councils would have to make “the kind of sacrifices central government is making”.
Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, said further cuts would “stretch essential services to breaking point in many areas”.
But he welcomed a plan by Mr Osborne to transfer £2bn from the NHS budget to fund social care, which has been badly hit by council cuts in some areas.
Labour has said it will not reverse the spending cuts announced for 2015-16, although it will borrow money to invest in building more houses.
Spending Review Documents
Mr Balls launched a fierce Commons attack on the “out-of-touch chancellor” who, he said, had “failed on living standards, growth and the deficit, and families and businesses are paying the price for his failure”.
“If the chancellor continues with his failing economic plan, then it will fall to the next Labour government to turn the economy round and to take the tough decisions to get the deficit down in a fair way,” added Mr Balls.
But he struck a more cautious note in a later interview with the BBC, saying he backed English language tests for migrants and would “look at the detail” of the benefit changes, adding: “If it saves money and it works, fine.”
He also pledged to study the pay progression proposals to see if it would work out cheaper than performance-related pay, which will be replacing it.
The trade unions reacted angrily to the public sector pay squeeze. Prospect, which represents 34,000 specialist civil servants, said the Spending Review was a “kick in the teeth” for its members.
Deputy general secretary Leslie Manasseh said: “The chancellor obviously isn’t aware that his government have scrapped progression for most civil servants already, apart from where it is part of an employee’s contractual rights.
“Our members have already put up with two years of pay freezes followed by pay caps alongside pension contribution increases of over 3%. Many members have seen the real value of their pay plummet by up to 15%.”
But business lobby group the CBI said the squeeze was “tough but necessary” at a time of tight public finances and it was also “encouraging to see that government will have greater control of the welfare budget through the new cap”.
The Local Government Association said the planned 10% squeeze in 2015-16 was “over the top”, coming after the 28% funding cut in 2011-15.
But council leaders have welcomed plans to give local authorities a £2bn slice of the social care budget.
Ministers said this and other changes would reduce cuts to 2.3%.
The overall amount of money available to councils is set to fall from £54.8bn in 2014-15 to £54.5bn in 2015-16,
Direct funding from Whitehall to town halls will fall by £2.1bn to £23.5bn as part of the £11.5bn cuts announced by Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday.
David Sparks, the LGA vice-chairman, said the announcement meant some councils would have seen their funding cut by 40% in five years and were now facing “financial breakdown”.
Local authorities fear the extra 10% cut will stretch essential services to “breaking point” but ministers see no evidence of that yet.
The view in central government is that councils can and will find an extra tranche of savings.
But local authorities may be victims of their own success in doing that so far.
They always feared their reward for running a tight ship would be another package of hefty cuts.
The more positive news, from a council perspective, is the apparent willingness of ministers to pool local spending money.
So they finally get their hands on a significant chunk of NHS funding to ease the pressures on social care. But is it enough?
For those banking on local economic growth, there may be some disappointment in the size of the much heralded “single funding pot” – money seized from other departments and awarded to the most compelling local enterprise partnerships.
But Lord Heseltine, who came up with the idea, insists it is a good start.
It was “inevitable” that in the future they would have to cut non-statutory services, such as road maintenance and cultural activities.
“It is not right that local government should take what will be for many people a 40% cut. That is just over the top and it jeopardises the whole point of what we do in relation to our services and our communities.
“People will wake up in two or three years’ time and in many cases their local council will not be there as they know it.”
He criticised Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to extend the freeze on council tax bills for a further two years by offering £833m in subsidies to those councils that do not raise rates.
“Because Eric Pickles has not let councils raise council tax over the last couple of years it has distorted the financial base of local government, and that is why we have to have all of these cuts,” he added.
But Mr Osborne told MPs that local government had already “taken difficult decisions to reduce staff numbers, share services and make savings” but it was right that it continued to make the same “sacrifices” as central government.
The chancellor said a range of financial assistance for councils, including funding to help them to deliver integrated social care in partnership with the NHS, to encourage collaboration with neighbouring town halls, and to support the troubled families initiative, meant the actual squeeze in spending would be less than 3%.
LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said the social care announcement was a “start towards addressing the very real crisis in providing care to some of the most vulnerable members of society”.
But Labour said it was wrong to impose further cuts on councils in the “areas of deepest need”.
One local government analyst said town halls were likely to come under “immense pressure” and faced having to make major changes in the way they functioned.
Ian Washington, of Deloitte, said: “After today, meeting statutory responsibilities and maintaining basic levels of service is likely to mean more councils sharing resources with health and police, greater involvement of the private and voluntary sectors in delivery and, possibly, full operational mergers between councils.
“To date this has covered services like finance, IT and HR, but will now need to go much further.”
The budget of the Department for Local Government and Communities itself will be cut by 10%.
To top it off Chancellor George Osborne also said those claiming unemployment benefits who did not speak English would have to attend English classes.
Jobseekers will also be required to have a CV before claiming benefits.
Mr Osborne made the announcements as he outlined the government’s latest round of spending plans.
He said weekly meetings with Job Centre staff would become mandatory for about half of jobseekers.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said these were likely to be jobseekers who were deemed not to be doing enough to find a job themselves.
Other claimants working hard to find a job will be able to continue attending fortnightly meetings, as is currently required.
Currently claimants can begin receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance three days after they become unemployed, but this is to be extended to a week for all claimants.
Jobseeker’s Allowance changes
- Extending waiting period for first claims from three days to seven
- Longer initial interviews for new claimants, who must provide a CV
- Claimants with poor spoken English required to attend classes, or face sanctions
- Weekly meetings with Job Centre advisers for those deemed not to be doing enough to find a job
Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander told the BBC that extending the waiting period would bring the UK more in line with other countries, and help make job centre services more intensive and efficient.
Mr Osborne said: “Those first seven days should be spent looking for work and not looking to sign on.”
The Treasury says the reforms, being brought in from next April, will deliver £350m in annual savings.
But critics said the delay could increase the troubles for families already suffering economic hardship, and may discourage claimants from looking for short-term contracts.
Duncan Weldon, senior policy adviser at the TUC, described the measure as “unnecessary cruelty”.
The requirement to learn English is being introduced for those whose inability to speak English is a barrier to finding work.
Mr Osborne said insisting that jobseekers speak English was “a reasonable requirement in this country”.
“From now on, if claimants don’t speak English, they will have to attend language courses until they do,” he told the House of Commons.
Now the coalition will have us believe that all is rose tinted glasses by stating that more people are finding jobs through the government’s flagship back-to-work scheme, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Some 13.4% of people referred to the scheme in the year to March found a lasting job – compared with 3.4% in the same period last year.
Ministers say the figures “demonstrate the growing success of the scheme”.
But Labour said the scheme was still failing to meet the DWP’s own targets and was “worse than doing nothing”.
The programme is primarily aimed at getting people who have been unemployed for more than a year into a job.
It is delivered by 18 prime contractors working for the government and hundreds of smaller sub-contractors from the voluntary, community and private sectors.
Providers are paid by results, meaning they get most of the fee for finding someone a job that they stay in for up to two years. They get more for the harder-to-help jobseekers.
Since it was launched in June 2011, 132,000 people have found lasting jobs on the scheme out of the one million referred to it, a success rate of approximately 13.4%.
Ministers should know better than to try and spin the Work Programme as a huge success”
Figures for the first year of the programme, which launched in June 2011, showed just 3.5% of the people referred to the programme got a lasting job.
The most dramatic improvements have been in the figures for people receiving jobseeker’s allowance, with nearly a third of 18-24-year-old jobseekers finding work.
But only 5.5% of the unemployed people who have been moved to the programme from the Employment and Support Allowance, which supports sick and disabled jobseekers, found work.
The DWP said the new figures only counted those who have been in work for long periods – six months in most cases, or three months for the hardest to help.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs.
“The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better.”
He added that the worst-performing providers would begin to lose market share from August.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, for Labour, said: “Three years into the Parliament, and nearly nine out of 10 people on this flagship programme have been failed.
“Worst of all, the government missed every single one of its minimum targets, and in nearly half the country, the Work Programme is literally worse than doing nothing.
“No wonder the benefits bill is £21bn higher than planned, and no wonder the chancellor himself was forced to attack ‘under-performing’ back-to-work programmes.
“We can’t go on like this. We desperately need a change of course starting with compulsory jobs guarantee that would make sure everyone out of work long term would have to take a job after two years.”
The TUC was also scathing about the DWP’s claims.
General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers should know better than to try and spin the Work Programme as a huge success.
“Nearly two years on only one in ten people has found proper work through the scheme – a number that drops to just three in every hundred for disabled people.”
Dame Anne Begg, chairman of the work and pensions committee, which recently criticised the Work Programme in a report, said: “This statistical release does nothing to reduce the fear that the Work Programme is failing to reach harder to help jobseekers.”
But the figures were welcomed by business lobby group the CBI, which said providers and the government had to continue to push for improvement.
Jim Bligh, the CBI’s head of public-sector reform, said: “Performance in supporting the hardest to help jobseekers needs to improve, but these people have significant barriers to work which take time to address.”
Unions laid into Chancellor George Osborne today for his latest “vicious attack” on public-sector pay.
The savage Tory insisted wage rises would be held down to an average 1 per cent in 2015/16, continuing his policy of real-term pay cuts.
And he said automatic annual pay rises in the Civil Service would end by 2015/16.
Civil servants’ union PCS said it was “deeply unfair” to stop pay progression.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Despite all the evidence that austerity is making things worse not better, Osborne is slashing billions more from government departments, including cutting the living standards of hard-working public servants for many years to come.”
Unison leader Dave Prentis added that the Chancellor had demonstrated “yet again” that he has no idea how pay progression works in practice.
He asked: “How can he squeeze more out of council workers when three-quarters now earn less than £21,000 as a result of the government’s three-year pay freeze?”
Unite leader Len McCluskey added: “With our economy on life support, our nation desperately needs spades in the ground to get Britain building. We need spending to boost jobs and growth now, not in five or 10 years time and an end to the economic misery this chancellor is causing.”
Let’s not forget that Mr Osborne had launched a “vicious new round of attacks on public servants, local service users, the unemployed, single parents and claimants with disabilities.”
George Osborne’s confirmation that he will impose cuts in public spending of £11.5 billion in 2015-16, with projected annual borrowing of £96bn, underlines his failure to balance the books by the end of this Parliament.
This is not a surprise. Few people expected success in this proclaimed target.
However, this is not the most important consideration for the Chancellor. As huge as these sums may seem to ordinary people, they are eminently manageable.
Osborne’s success lies in gaining broad acceptance of the idea that the annual gap between spending and borrowing is so horrendous as to demand swingeing cuts to public services.
To put these figures into perspective, the last Labour government, with the support of Tories and Liberal Democrats, set aside £1.3 trillion to bail out the private banking system that had bankrupted itself through reckless speculation.
The public spending deficit is a red herring deployed by neoliberal fanatics to justify an unprecedented assault on the postwar gains introduced by Clem Attlee’s Labour government.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls amused himself by highlighting the disparity between
comments made now by Osborne and what he said previously about bank lending, Britain’s AAA credit rating and people’s living standards.
However, his denunciation of the Chancellor’s concentration on planning cuts for two years ahead rather than boosting the economy was let down by his own conservatism.
Ed Balls is aware that Osborne’s speech was less about tackling the deficit than about preparing for the next general election.
The Chancellor believes that he played a trump card by laying down a further cap on benefits to be policed by the Office for Budget Responsibility that can only be lifted following a statement to Parliament.
He calculates that the Labour leadership will be so petrified of being pilloried in the capitalist media as soft on claimants – for claimants, read work-shy spongers – that it will embrace this cap.
That is the predicament into which the two Eds have cast themselves by accepting the broad outline of the conservative coalition case while quibbling over details.
Both Miliband and Balls banged on at the weekend about “hard reality” and “the real world” making cuts in government spending inevitable.
This, as Osborne never tires of pointing out, leaves them with a credibility gap where they criticise coalition cuts as unfair but fail to identify where a Labour government would wield the axe.
Public service workers and their families contemplating further reductions in living standards by virtue of tens of thousands more job losses and below-inflation pay rises will not be convinced by Labour’s flabby response.
The same goes for the unemployed, who face tighter restrictions, and workers in the private sector, most of whom lack trade union representation.
There is no rational basis for accepting the Tory-Liberal Democrat creed that a crisis created by the private sector can only be resolved by attacking public services.
It should be rejected, as should the entire neoliberal cuts programme.
The clear class agenda of the coalition, exemplified by April’s £97,000 tax handout to 30,000 millionaires, must be challenged by policies to benefit working people at the expense of those who caused the crisis – big business and the rich.
Taxes on wealth, high incomes, profits and financial speculation, together with rent and price controls, could redress the balance and provide vital investment in council housing, infrastructure, manufacturing and services.
Chancellor George Osborne took to the Commons today to deliver his latest spending review amid much jocularity on the Tory benches and uneasy giggling from their Lib Dem lackeys.
So far so predictable, and it didn’t end there… bland and ambiguous pronouncements? Check! Winsome attempts at humour? Check! Smug smirking? You got it! Referencing the woeful mess the inherited from Labour? Ditto!
It was like he was being a git by rote. Maybe Osborne’s been getting tuition from Michael Gove.
If there were a competition for the most absurd number of cliches jemmied into a ministerial speech, Osborne would be up for a gold medal.
Thus we were told we had to make sure “we’re all in it together,” that we “live within our means” that we had to “deal with the world as it is, not how we want it to be” and not lump our debts “onto our children’s shoulders” by adopting a “something for nothing” attitude.
All that was in the first two minutes. And he wasn’t finished there. He said that if he were to abandon his austerity plans Britain would be “back in intensive care,” which would be a very bad thing because this mob have decimated the NHS so badly it wouldn’t get a bed.
He boasted that immigration was down by a third since the coalition took power. You have to admit they’ve taken a novel approach to tackling the issue – make the country so god-awful that no-one wants to come here.
It’s a real gift to be able to announce the most savage measures that will devastate millions of lives and still be boring, but he managed it.
There was something in his review for everyone, and none of it good. A further 144,000 public-sector workers are to be axed and their wages cut in real terms.
In addition automatic annual pay rises would be scrapped for civil servants, NHS staff, teachers, prison officers and police, because let’s face it they haven’t made themselves unpopular enough with those sections of society yet.
The unemployed, of which there will be a lot more by the time he’s finished, will have to prove they are seeking work before they receive their benefits and mothers with young children will have to attend jobcentres and do likewise.
The review was based on the three principles, he claimed… “Reform, growth and fairness” and then singularly failed to address any of them.
One of the most curious pronouncements was his boast, seemingly out of nowhere, that the site of battle of Waterloo is on target to be restored in time for the 200th anniversary in 2015.
You’d have thought he might have steered clear of referencing a battle where a jumped-up megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur got his comeuppance, but then it was probably just an anti-European thing to appease the backbenchers and the 1922 Committee.
Either that or he’s a really big ABBA fan, which would make sense when you consider the lyrics to one of their other biggest hits, “Money, money money… It’s a rich man’s world.”
Elsewhere we learned that Eric Pickles is going to tighten his belt – no mean feat in itself – and allow his department to take a 10 per cent budget cut.
Conversely, we learnt the spooks of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are going to get a budget increase, but I’m sure they knew that already.
So, more torture and snooping for your tax buck – marvellous.
There was probably more, but you lose the will to live after a while.
Even Cameron looked pained at times, although that could just have been the residual effect of all that brown-nosing at the G8 the other week.
And then it was the turn of what is risibly still referred to as the opposition. Ed Balls, as usual, made a lot of noise, and while I’m sure he thinks he comes across like Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull he actually more closely resembles a bilious bullfrog.
He did the usual mad-starey-eye thing and Ed Miliband sat behind him jiggling up and down like a schoolboy who desperately needs the toilet.
Balls rightly pointed out that Osborne has made a complete haimes of the economy, but the problem is he’s already admitted he’ll do exactly the same if elected which made his faux outrage both farcical and redundant.
It wasn’t so much a clash of the titans as a battle of the blowhards.