THE government last night accused Labour of pursuing a “scorched earth policy” before the general election, leaving behind billions of pounds of previously hidden spending commitments.
The newly discovered Whitehall “black holes” could force even more severe public spending cuts, or higher tax rises, ministers fear.
Memo to the taxpayers of Britain: get ready for a massive shafting.
The “black holes” that ministers have already unearthed include:
- A series of defence contracts signed shortly before the election, including a £13 billion tanker aircraft programme whose cost has “astonished and baffled” ministers.
- £420m of school building contracts, many targeting Labour marginals, signed off by Ed Balls, the former schools secretary, weeks before the general election was called.
- The troubled £1.2 billion “e-borders” IT project for the immigration service, which, sources say, is running even later and more over-budget than Labour ministers had admitted.
- A crisis in the student loans company where extra cash may be needed to prevent a repeat of last year’s failure to process tens of thousands of claims on time.
- The multi-billion-pound cost of decommissioning old nuclear power plants, which ministers claim has not been properly accounted for in Whitehall budgets.
- A £600m computer contract for the new personal pensions account scheme rushed through by Labour this year, which will still cost at least £25m even if it is cancelled.
Maude, who has been given the task of reducing Whitehall waste, insisted that ministers were not scaremongering to paint their predecessors in a negative light. He said there was widespread concern that Labour had become particularly spendthrift in the run-up to the election campaign.
Given the scale on which Labour have been spending for the last ten years, the fact that they have become "particularly spendthrift in the run-up to the election campaign"—whilst hardly surprising—should worry us all very, very deeply.
Mainly because we are going to have to dig very, very deeply into our pockets in order to pay for it all.
With speculation growing that Osborne is planning to announce an increase in Vat from 17.5% to 20% next month, there are growing fears he could face a tax revolt from left-leaning Lib Dem backbenchers.
Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes said on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “Our party remains an independent party. We will take views. We don’t suddenly change our policy.”
As I said, get ready for another election very, very soon...