Budget 2009: Efficiency cuts 'will hit NHS'

Cable: A Tory-esque government
Cable: A Tory-esque government

By Ian Dunt

The chancellor's mission to claw back £9 billion in "efficiency spending" will suck out £3 billion from health and education, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.

Alistair Darling did not specify where the 'efficiency savings' would be made during yesterday's Budget, but opposition party analysts have been scanning the small print for hints over the course of the evening.

They found a strong signs it would come out of the NHS and Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).


"The government must now be honest about what it is actually cutting; it will certainly not save £3 billion by cutting back on paperclips," Vince Cable, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, said.

Party officials pointed to Pre-Budget Report figures putting the departmental expenditure limit for the NHS in 2010/11 at £104.6 billion, which then becomes £102.3 billion in yesterday's Budget.

Similarly, the DCSF budget is reduced from £51.9 billion to £51.3 billion.

"The government has been desperate to claim it can make significant efficiency savings but without saying where," Mr Cable continued.

"Until ministers come clean about where the axe will fall we must assume this is nothing more than a return to Tory-esque government where public services are stretched to breaking point as the money is squeezed out of them."

Mr Darling and Gordon Brown are both facing sustained criticism for their optimistic outlook in yesterday's Budget, and the record level of government debt current spending levels will require.

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