U.K. Labour Asks OBR to Audit Plans in Search for CredibilityRobert Hutton
Ed Balls, the Treasury spokesman for the U.K. opposition Labour Party, asked the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility to audit his spending plans to ward off criticisms they’re unaffordable.
Balls, who will address his party’s annual conference in the south-coast resort of Brighton at about noon local time today, will tell delegates that they need to demonstrate credibility before the 2015 election.
“In tough times, it’s even more important that all our policies and commitments are properly costed and funded,” Balls will say, according to extracts released by his office. “The British people rightly want to know that the sums add up.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband described as “nonsense” yesterday accusations by the governing Conservative Party that he’s already committed to an extra 27.9 billion pounds ($45 billion) of spending in his first year in office should Labour win power in 2015. The Tories argue a Labour government would have to raise taxes and borrowing, pushing interest rates up.
The start of the conference has been overshadowed by the publication of a memoir by Damian McBride, who worked alongside Miliband and Balls in the Treasury under Gordon Brown when Labour was last in power. The book, “Power Trip,” details how McBride worked on Brown’s behalf to undermine Prime Minister Tony Blair and punish political opponents, often by spreading misinformation.
Balls will warn Labour that if the party wins in 2015, it will have to accept some of the spending reductions made by the current coalition government.
“We won’t be able to reverse all the spending cuts and tax rises the Tories have pushed through. And we will have to govern with less money around,” he’ll say. “The next Labour government will have to make cuts too. Because while jobs and growth are vital to getting the deficit down -- something this government has never understood -- they cannot magic the whole deficit away at a stroke.”
Robert Chote, the chairman of the OBR, said it was for Parliament to decide whether auditing opposition spending plans is within its remit. “We would need to ensure that we had adequate internal resources to do the job, as well as guaranteed access to the necessary data and analytical expertise, ” he said in an e-mailed statement.
In an effort to reduce immigration and deal with unemployment, Miliband yesterday proposed requiring companies to take on a “local” apprentice for each person they hired from outside the European Union. The Conservatives pointed out that under EU law such apprenticeships would have to be offered to any European citizen. The Institute of Directors described it as a “daft policy” that would make it harder for businesses to hire people.
In a taste of the battles to come, Balls’s deputy, Rachel Reeves, was challenged about the cost of another new policy, requiring schools to offer child care from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“This is something that we don’t think will cost any money,” she told the BBC. “This is a policy that doesn’t involve additional money.”