Balls to pledge 'end to austerity'

Press Association
General Election 2015 campaign - March 31st
General Election 2015 campaign - March 31st

A Labour budget after the election will bring about an end to Tory austerity across the UK, shadow chancellor Ed Balls will claim today.

If voted into power in May 7, Labour would "get to work straight away" with new investment for the NHS, education and job creation.

But as he campaigns with Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy in Glasgow, Mr Balls will argue voting for the SNP is a vote for "continued Tory austerity".

Support for Nicola Sturgeon's party has soared since the independence referendum, with polls suggesting many Labour seats in Scotland could fall to the SNP.

Labour politicians have been warning Scots this means a vote for the SNP would only increase Tory chances of being the largest party after the vote.

In a speech in Scotland's largest city, Mr Balls will say that the Conservatives are "planning extreme spending cuts after the next election", claiming the next three years could see more severe cuts than the previous five years.

He will argue: "These are ideological spending cuts which go way beyond balancing the books. And we all know what it would mean - another VAT rise and cuts to our National Health Service.

"We reject these extreme and risky plans. That's why Labour voted against the Tory Budget last month.

"But the only way to stop this Tory austerity is by voting for a Labour government and with a Labour budget after the election."

He will promise: "We will get to work straight away with new investment for our NHS, education and job creation here in Scotland and the whole of the UK.

"Our tough but balanced plan, set out in our fiscal pledge, means we won't do this by increasing borrowing but with fair tax changes across the UK.

"So we will have a mansion tax on properties over £2 million, a tax on bank bonuses, changes to pension tax relief for the very highest earners and action to tackle tax avoidance too.

"As Gordon Brown said on Monday, this will mean £800 million of additional spending for Scotland.

"And Jim Murphy has already said how he wants to use that investment for the health service, to get young people back to work and to increase bursaries for students."

But Mr Balls will insist: "Let's be clear, we will only get this additional investment in Scotland and across the UK with a Labour government.

"And a vote for the SNP is a vote for continued Tory austerity.

"First, because they have failed to back Labour's fair tax changes across the UK which means we can have extra investment for the NHS, education and young people.

"Second, because the SNP remains wedded to a fiscal approach for Scotland which rejects the pooling and sharing of resources across the United Kingdom. That doesn't just mean scrapping the Barnett formula - damaging though that would be. The SNP's plans for Scotland would mean, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, £7.6 billion of spending cuts and tax rises. This would have a hugely damaging impact on living standards and public services in Scotland.

"And third, because a vote for the SNP means it is more likely David Cameron stays in Downing Street. Every vote in this election that might allow the Tories to be the largest party is a vote for Tory austerity to continue."

He will claim: "There is only one way to end Tory austerity in Scotland and that's by voting Labour."

Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney hit back at Labour and said: "Ed Miliband confirmed on national television that under Labour 'we're going to be reducing spending' and yet Ed Balls has the cheek to pretend he is anti-austerity.

"He is the person who said he would change precisely 'nothing' in George Osborne's latest Budget - despite the Tory plans for further and deeper cuts.

"And he trooped through the lobbies of the House of Commons to vote for a further £30 billion in cuts after the Westminster election. £800 million of spending in Scotland is nothing compared to a £2.4 billion share of cuts."

Mr Swinney added: "If Ed Balls wants anyone to take him seriously then he must set out exactly when these taxes will be introduced and how much they will raise.

"The SNP has set out spending plans which will see real-terms increases in spending while still tackling the deficit in a responsible way. Those plans have been vindicated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which said Labour could adopt our proposals and still meet its deficit reduction targets.

"Ed Balls must use his visit to Scotland today to say he will ditch Labour's obsession with pushing through Tory cuts - it is his last chance to do so."

The Deputy First Minister said: "The choice in this election is crystal clear - between Labour plans for more Tory-style cuts or for a strong group of SNP MPs at Westminster to keep Labour honest and to help bring an end to austerity."

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Jim Murphy: Labour 'Must End Tory Austerity'
Jim Murphy: Labour 'Must End Tory Austerity'