Osborne has failed to publish the new Charter for Budget Responsibility that he promised.

 

Last autumn, the Tories cynically vetoed Ed Balls’s plan to allow the Office for Budget Responsibility to audit Labour’s manifestoEd Ball’s said:

“In tough times it’s even more important that all our policies and commitments are properly costed and funded.

The British people rightly want to know that the sums add up. So we will go one step further and ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – the watchdog set up by this government – to independently audit the costings of every individual spending and tax measure in Labour’s manifesto at the next election.”

This is the first time a Shadow Chancellor – the first time any political party in Britain – has ever said it wants this kind of independent audit. A radical change from what’s gone before, but the right thing to do to help restore public trust in politics. The Tories have persistently lied  about Labour’s economic performance, claiming that Labour borrowed “too much,” yet Osborne has borrowed more in 4 years than every Labour administration since 1900 combined.

Whilst the Labour Party invested what they borrowed in public services, at a time of global financial crisis, to protect the poorest from the worst of the consequences inflicted on us by the bankers and financial sector, the Coalition have not only got nothing to show for the money they’ve added to the debt, they have inflicted additional cuts on the poorest, leaving many citizens vulnerable to absolute poverty.

Osborne’s refusal to allow the OBR to audit policies is clearly an indication that he intends to continue to attempt discrediting what has been confirmed internationally as a sound economic approach from Labour, whilst ensuring Conservative policy proposals avoid scrutiny.

The Tories’ decision is entirely politically motivated` and certainly not in the public’s best interests. There is no reason in principle why they should refuse to allow the watchdog founded by Osborne in 2010 to audit Labour’s policies.

There is no sign of the updated Charter for Budget Responsibility that the Chancellor promised would be published by now. It was to be another of George Osborne’s political traps laid for the opposition in an attempt to undermine their economic credibility. In his recent Autumn Statement, the Chancellor promised an updated Charter for Budget Responsibility committing the government (and in theory a Labour administration) to an aggressive pace of deficit reduction. He said:

“Next week we will publish a new Charter for Budget Responsibility that will reinforce our commitment to finish the job in the next Parliament, and we will ask the House to vote on it in the new year.”

The implicit aim was to force Labour to either match his plans, and commit to billions of pounds of additional cuts (something which wouldn’t be well received by the left and the trade unions), or to oppose them and be denounced as fiscally irresponsible.

Chris Leslie MP, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, commenting on George Osborne’s failure to publish as he promised a new Charter for Budget Responsibility in the week following the Autumn Statement, said:

“George Osborne’s latest stunt has become a shambles.

“In the Budget George Osborne was talking about a vote on balancing the overall budget. Then last month the Treasury tried to lay the ground for a big u-turn by briefing that the vote would only be on balancing the current budget, excluding capital investment.

“And now, after all the hype and promises that a new Charter would have been published over the last week, the government has totally failed to publish anything. This is a total mess. As ever, these so called Tory traps are backfiring on the Chancellor.

“Labour has set out a tough but balanced approach to get the current budget into surplus and the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament.

“Our first election pledge announced this week is that we will balance the books and cut the deficit every year, while securing the future of our NHS. This will require sensible spending cuts in non-protected areas, fairer choices including reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires and a plan to deliver the rising living standards and stronger growth needed to balance the books.

“In contrast the Tories are pursuing an increasingly unbalanced and extreme approach. They have chosen to pencil in even deeper spending cuts, which would return public spending to a share of GDP last seen in the 1930s.

“They are refusing to ask those with the broadest shoulders to make a greater contribution and ignoring the need for a plan to deliver the rising living standards that are vital to getting the deficit down. And they have now made £7 billion of unfunded tax promises, which can only be paid for by even deeper cuts to public spending or another Tory VAT rise.

“George Osborne should spend less time playing silly political games and more time sorting out the economy and trying to make his sums add up.”

Update

Without any further announcement to the opposition, the government has published its Charter on Budget Responsibility. In his economy speech this afternoon, David Cameron announced that the Charter “would have the structural current budget into balance” in 2017/18, which appears to enshrine into law the Labour plan that he is attacking in the same speech.

 Cameron has defended Conservative plans for public spending cuts through the next parliament as “sensible and reasonable”, claiming that Britain was still vulnerable to being “tipped over the edge” by another financial crash.

 Cameron was joined by George Osborne in arguing that the next government had a duty to run a budget surplus, in what is set to become one of the defining issues of the general election next May.

Labour  have accused the Tories of an “ideological” obsession with cutting the state; Mr Osborne wants to carry on squeezing public spending even after the overall budget is balanced.

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to publication of the Charter for Budget Responsibility, said:

“Once again, a silly political stunt by George Osborne has totally backfired. David Cameron has just given a speech attacking Labour’s target to get the current budget into surplus. But this is exactly what they are putting to a vote in this new Charter.

“In the Budget George Osborne talked about a vote on balancing the overall budget. Today he and David Cameron have done a staggering U-turn on this vote and are now proposing a vote on the current budget, excluding capital investment. This is the same measure of the deficit the Labour Party has been committed to targeting for the last three years. They have also changed the fiscal mandate from being a ‘target’ to an ‘aim’.

“We said in January that we want to get the current budget into surplus and national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament. This Charter is consistent with our position so we’ll vote for it. We’re not going to change our view about what’s in Britain’s best interests because of one of George Osborne’s silly games.

“Labour will cut the deficit every year and get the current budget into surplus, and the national debt falling, as soon as possible in the next Parliament. How fast we can go will depend on the state of the economy, including what happens to wages, growth, the housing benefit bill and events around the world.

“But our approach will be very different to the Tories. There will need to be sensible spending cuts in non-protected areas, but we will make fairer choices including reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires and our plan will deliver the rising living standards and stronger growth needed to balance the books.
 
“In contrast the Tories are pursuing an increasingly unbalanced and extreme approach. They have chosen to pencil in even deeper spending cuts, which would return public spending to a share of GDP last seen in the 1930s.” 

Echoing Chris Leslie, he added:

“They are refusing to ask those with the broadest shoulders to make a greater contribution and ignoring the need for a plan to deliver the rising living standards that are vital to getting the deficit down. And they have now made £7 billion of unfunded tax promises, which can only be paid for by even deeper cuts to public spending or another Tory VAT rise.

“This is a complete own goal for the Chancellor. Perhaps George Osborne should spend less time thinking up silly political games which end up backfiring and more time sorting out the economy and trying to make his sums add up.” 

It’s very clearly all about ideological commitment for the Tories, at any cost, and not about meeting economic and social need.

And that isn’t democracy.

Thanks to Robert @LivingstonePics

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