Deputy First Minister John Swinney has condemnded UK Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to extend the UK Government’s austerity programme, despite his admission that there is headroom for investment in public services. UK cuts mean that Scotland will suffer another £12 billion of cumulative cuts in real terms over the period to 2019, reducing the Scottish Government’s ability to provide support and services for vulnerable people.
The Chancellor announced plans in the latest UK budget to cut another £12bn from welfare spending, but has not given specific details on where these are to fall. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has called for the Chancellor to set out in detail where he expects to make these savings, saying that he would have to make “unprecedented cuts to welfare” to meet these figures.
The Chancellor repeated plans to design a welfare system where “it pays to work”, and to exert controls on welfare spending, confirming that this would mean a freeze in working-age benefits following the election, however this would only go part way to achieving his savings target. The Chancellor aims to eliminate the £90bn budget deficit by 2019 if reelected, however, the IFS says that achieving this will mean a much tighter squeeze on spending than anything we have since the coalition took office in 2010.