Bill English is still droning through his budget, which by all accounts won’t deliver a surplus and while he is doing that the Chancellor on the UK, George Osborne is taking an axe to government spending.
George Osborne has told the Ministry of Defence and other Whitehall departments that they still need to find billions of pounds worth of cuts this year to help Britain go into “that extra gear” and secure the economic recovery.
Mr Osborne said that “the more you can do early, the smoother the ride”, as he said that unprotected departments will be expected to find £13 billion worth of departmental savings.
The chancellor disclosed that Greg Hands, the new chief secretary, has written to every government department except health, education and international development ordering them to find cuts.
It comes as the government faces a potential back-bench rebellion unless it commits to spending 2 per cent of Britain’s national income on defence.
In a speech that underlined his credentials as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party, Mr Osborne said he wanted Britain secure “higher living standards for the next generation to come”.
He said: “We are two weeks into a five year Parliament. The team around the Cabinet table is strong and experienced. Confidence in the British economy is at its highest level in 12 years. If we don’t, together, fix our country’s long term weaknesses now – when will we?”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that unprotected departments could be forced to make the equivalent of 18 per cent of additional cuts in real terms, about the same amount as over the past four weeks.
It has been suggested that the Ministry of Defence, Department for Communities and Local Government and the Ministry of Justice could bear the brunt of the austerity measures.