Labour leadership comes out fighting on the economy

By Matthew West

The Labour party has attacked Conservative plans for an emergency Budget, saying Tory tax proposals alone would cost each family in the UK £1,500.

In a move designed to make the economy the central theme of the debate in the election campaign this week, prime minister Gordon Brown, business secretary Lord Mandelson and chancellor Alistair Darling attacked the Conservatives’ tax proposals to be introduced in an emergency Budget to be held within 50 days of polling day should they win the election.

Mr Brown said: “Just this morning David Cameron has said the reason for his big [society] idea is because the country has run out of money. His vision is about DIY, ‘you’re on your own’ government. Big society means a big cut in public services. It’s a risk the country can’t afford to take.”

“Every promise that each party makes depends on a strong economy,” Mr Brown added.

“Businesses need help now. And we must take the right decisions now. So the question is: who has the best plan to secure the recovery in a way that is fair?”

The chancellor said Conservative plans to cut £6 billion in spending this year would lead to a direct cut in vital public services including 14,200 fewer teachers and 2,400 fewer police officers.

He also accused the Tories of wanting to cut child trust funds for those on incomes above £16,000 and child tax credits for those couples earning a combined income of £31,000 or more.

Labour accused the Conservatives of not coming clean about their economic proposals, arguing that Conservative plans for a married tax allowance, a freeze in council tax, and a rise in national insurance and inheritance tax thresholds among other prooposals would lead to a total cost of £38 billion to the taxpayer over the life of one parliament, or £1,500 per family in Britain today.

The party added that such costs were simply the result of Tory tax policy and did not take into account Conservative plans for dealing with the deficit.

Mr Darling accused his Conservative opposite number George Osborne of not coming clean over his tax proposals. Meanwhile, the prime minister said that if the Tories had submitted more detailed proposals to Treasury officials, as suggested by one journalist at the press conference, then they should tell the public what they were as well.

Mr Darling added: “George Osborne wants to hold an emergency budget on June 25th. But he won’t tell people what will be in it.

“Since the election was called he has set out a long list of tax cuts. But he is silent on the real price to be paid for his promises.”

The prime minister may have been buoyed by figure last month, which showed the total level of the government’s public sector borrowing was lower than had been previously estimated. GDP figures for the last quarter of 2009 confirmed the country had moved out of recession. Meanwhile, unemployement figures are due out on Tuesday while official figures on economic growth are expected on Thursday.

But the Institute of Fiscal Studies warned on Monday Britain did not do as much as the vast majority of other countries to improve the strength of the public finances during its time in power, however.