Alan Johnson warns against scale of spending cuts plans

Media caption,
Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson warned against ''going hell for leather on cuts''

Shadow chancellor Alan Johnson has accused the coalition of basing their timetable for spending cuts on the next election rather than on economics.

Mr Johnson, setting out Labour's position ahead of Wednesday's Spending Review, said ministers would be taking a "huge gamble with growth and jobs".

He said Labour would halve, rather than eradicate, the deficit by 2013/14.

In his central London speech he said banks should contribute around £7.5bn to cutting the deficit by 2015.

"The banking sector is contributing £2.4bn whilst child benefit freezes and cuts will raise substantially more, so families take the strain while bankers grab the bonuses," he said.

"There's no justification for such an unfair sharing of the burden, so we will ask the government to think again and come forward with proposals for the banks to make a greater contribution."

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One that Labour now wants a greater share of money to cut the deficit from tax rises rather than spending cuts - 60% from spending cuts and 40% from tax rises, compared with pre-election plans of 66% to 33%.

The additional taxation would come from a bank levy, the capital gains tax increase and the increase in the threshold on working tax credits the coalition has brought in.

"This would make it around 60-40 but we're being very very clear here - we're not looking at people's personal taxation," he told the BBC.

The coalition's plans will see spending cuts making up about three-quarters of the deficit eradication programme, with tax rises accounting for the rest.

Mr Johnson said in his speech: "The coalition's austerity strategy amounts to a huge risk with growth and jobs. By going hell-for-leather on cuts at a time when the private sector cannot be expected pick up the slack, they run the risk of leaving us with higher unemployment, deprived communities and a diminished society.

"And it will make getting the deficit down harder. Taking a slower, less-damaging route, as we propose, provides a credible plan; securing growth and protecting public services.

"Requiring a greater contribution from the banks and tough choices on spending and welfare. So there is another way, and the government needs to unlash itself from the mast and take a new direction."

Chancellor George Osborne has accused Labour of being "in denial" about the deficit, and insisted the cuts were needed to provide a brighter future for the UK economy.

Mr Osborne also received the backing of the leaders of 35 of the UK's biggest companies for his spending cuts plans in a letter to Monday's Daily Telegraph.