Chancellor George Osborne and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith have publicly agreed that £10bn of further savings on welfare can be made, after the pair co-authored a piece in the Daily Mail showing a united front on the issue.
The piece, penned for the opening day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, reveal the pair are “united” in their determination to deliver Universal Credit, and that both are “satisfied” that £10bn of further welfare savings can be made. The detail of the cuts, which is set to lead to serious tensions in the Coalition, are set to be announced by Mr Osborne today.
“We have already announced measures and taken action to reduce the welfare bill by £18bn and we have reformed welfare so that it will be more effective in transforming lives, the article says.
“But this doesn’t mean the difficult choices on spending have gone away. We will need to look for further savings in most government departments and most areas of spending at the next spending review.
“For example, as the Treasury illustrated at the time of the last Budget, if the rate of reductions in departmental budgets in the next spending review period is to be kept the same as the current rate, then the welfare budget would have to be reduced by more than £10bn by 2016-17.
“We are both satisfied that this is possible and we will work together to find savings of this scale. All of this will require some tough choices, but those choices will be guided by clear principles and a vision of what the welfare system should be.
“It should be a support for those who need our help but also a system that always requires those who are out of work to make the same kind of choices as those in work.”
The pair then allude to scrapping the automatic right for under 25s to claim housing benefit and hint at measures that could see unemployed parents deprived of automatic extra support – by way of tax credits, income support or child benefit – if they have another child. There have also been reports the Government is set to freeze working age benefits - by ending the automatic annual increase in line with inflation.
“Now we must pose some of the questions we need to answer,” the article says. “For example, is it right that school leavers should be able to move directly from school to a life on housing benefit without finding a job first?
“Is it right that people in work have to consider the full financial costs of having another child while those who are out of work don’t?”
The article also stood by the Government’s promise at the last election to protect universal pensioner benefits.
It said: “We are also determined to deliver on the promises we made at the last election."