‘Cabinet heading for split’ over welfare cuts
By Hannah Furness
Last Updated: 1:05AM BST 28/04/2012
The Cabinet is facing a major split over the next round of spending cuts after Iain Duncan Smith spoke out against proposals to take a further £10bn from welfare budgets.
The Work and Pensions Secretary insisted the budget was not an “easy target” and suggested George Osborne would be blocked if he attempted cut the huge sum.
The Chancellor had been considering reducing the welfare budget in an attempt to spare cuts in other departments, proposing to take a further £10bn on top of the £18bn reduction by 2014.
But Mr Duncan Smith has now said he does not think the suggested cuts were acceptable, adding he had a responsibility to support people in difficulty.
In an interview with the Times Newspaper, he said he believed there was some room to cut the welfare bill, but that they must strike a “balance of what we’re trying to achieve”.
He said: “There is in my view no such thing as an easy target in welfare.
“Some people think there is: until I show them where we spend the money.
“My view is that you have a responsibility to support people in difficulty. It’s a prime concern of ours – we can’t run away from that.”
When asked whether he thought it was acceptable for cuts of that size to be imposed, he said: “My view is it’s not.”
He added reform was key in ensuring long-term savings, and added extensive, arbitrary cuts could harm the most vulnerable.
Mr Duncan Smith also questioned the future of universal benefits paid to the middle classes and said: “The welfare system is there to support you in times of need, and when you get clear of it you should be clear of it . . . it’s rather daft to take tax off the middle classes and pay them a little bit back.”
The newspaper said Mr Duncan Smith’s aides had claimed his opinion was “not a source of tension” with the Chancellor.
During last month’s Budget, Mr Osborne said: “If in the next Spending Review we maintain the same rate of reductions in departmental spending as we have done in this review, we would need to make savings in welfare of £10 billion by 2016.”
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