Conservative spending plans don’t add up

From the BBC:

The Conservatives must “come clean” about spending plans should they win the general election, says Nick Clegg.

The Lib Dem deputy PM told the BBC his coalition partners planned to “pare back” the state “remorselessly” after 2017 and their plans did not “add up”…

Mr Clegg told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I just think the Conservatives are kidding themselves and seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it’s possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants. It just doesn’t add up.”

“Under George Osborne’s approach, once we balance the budget in 2017/8, they would want to pare back remorselessly, year in, year out, the state.”

Nick Clegg’s quite right to attack George Osborne for repeatedly ruling out tax rises after the general election. The level of cuts that would require not only to remove the deficit but also to pay for the tax cuts Osborne is promising and on top of that to run a surplus are so massive that the sums aren’t believable even if the Tories suddenly become the keenest party in the land to axe soldiers, abolish police posts and stop roads projects.

But the more that Clegg attacks other parties for their financial sums, the greater the pressure on the Liberal Democrats to have plans that add up – and as I’ve commented before, so far the implications of Lib Dems tax and deficit plans for areas like local government mean the party hasn’t yet got plans that involve plausible and liberal choices on spending underpinned by necessary choices on tax. Which is why the extra pressure Clegg is putting on his own policy views is good as it opens the way to more realistic spending totals and more clarity on taxes.

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