Unite has described the government’s spending cuts as “ideologically driven nonsense” after George Osborne’s plans were roundly criticised by a former head of the civil service.
At a meeting in Parliament Lord Turnbull accused the Chancellor of using arguments for spending cuts as a “smokescreen” for the Tories real mission to shrink the state.
The crossbench peer, who once served as principal private secretary to Margaret Thatcher, effectively told Osborne he was being less than straight with the public over the cuts.
“The idea that this debt is impoverishing people is, I think, an economic fallacy,” he said.
Lord Turnbull added: “I think what you’re doing, actually that you want a smaller state. There are good arguments for that, and some people don’t agree with that – but you don’t tell people that’s what you’re doing.
“What you tell them is this story about impoverishment of debt, which I think is a smokescreen. I think the whole idea of the urgency and the extent of reducing debt, I just can’t see the justification of it,” Lord Turnbull went on to say.
The peer, who serves on the Audit Committee, the Economic Affairs Committee, and was a member of the Chancellor’s 2012-13 Banking Standards Commission, ridiculed the government’s economic message.
“Why is it so wrong to borrow if you are creating assets at the same time, why are you not looking at the total balance sheet?” he told Osborne.
The Conservative manifesto commits to total cuts of public spending in real terms by 1 per cent a year by 2016-17 and 2017-18. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the vast majority of these will be directed at unprotected social security spending.
“Lord Turnbull has exposed George Osborne’s voodoo economics as nothing more than ideologically driven nonsense,” Unite political director Jennie Formby said.
“And of course he’s not alone — increasing numbers of leading economists have poured scorn on the notion that a country’s economy should be run in the same way as a household budget.
“So he’s right to say that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister are hell bent on reducing the size of the state because it’s in their political DNA.
“No one other than senior Tories now seriously believes in the austerity agenda, or that swingeing spending cuts designed to hit low income families and the poor hardest are a good idea.”