Darling begins ‘cuts’ meetings

By politics.co.uk staff

Alistair Darling is reportedly beginning a series of meetings with Cabinet colleagues to discuss which areas of public spending can be cut.

The BBC reported the chancellor was due to spend much of today talking with ministers about which programmes, if any, they would be prepared to see culled from their departments.

The news came as the UK’s public sector net borrowing was revealed to have risen to £16.1 billion last month, compared with £9.9 billion a year ago.

The figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed the government’s overall debt now stands at £804.8 billion – 57 per cent of GDP.

There was also a £900 million increase in unemployment benefits.

Earlier in the week it was revealed that unemployment rose to 2.47 million in the three months to July, the highest level for 14 years.

The week has been dominated by debate on the government’s future spending, after Gordon Brown used the word ‘cuts’ for the first time in his speech to the TUC Congress on Tuesday.

The Conservatives responded by attacking the prime minister’s honesty, producing a leaked Treasury document suggesting ministers were considering cuts of 9.3 per cent despite contrasting Labour investment with ten per cent cuts under the Tories.

No 10 denied that Mr Brown had misled parliament but the government appears to be losing the spending cuts battle against the opposition.

A poll for BBC2’s Newsnight programme found 39 per cent trusted the Conservatives to make the right choices on spending decisions, compared to 24 per cent for Labour and 17 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.