George Osborne: Cuts 'a price that works for our country'

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George Osborne, leftImage source, Getty Images

Chancellor George Osborne has said spending cuts to reduce the deficit are a "price that works for our country".

He told the BBC: "We are going to have to make savings... we are going to have to cut certain welfare bills like benefits that go to working-age people.

"But the prize is economic stability, growth, jobs in the future, brighter future, I think that's a price that works for our country."

It comes amid a coalition row over future plans to cut spending.

Senior Lib Dem Danny Alexander implied, in a Daily Telegraph article, that the Conservatives were in a "pre-election panic".

Mr Alexander also said that the Tories wanted to "inflict unnecessary pain" on the UK because they were "economically committed" to "shrinking the state ever further".

'Real choice'

In an interview with BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson Mr Osborne said voters faced "a real choice between competence and chaos" at the election next May.

He said his Liberal Democrat coalition partners were in "the same mix" as Labour and UKIP.

Media caption,

George Osborne: "There is a real choice for people between the competence offered by the Conservatives and the chaos of the other parties"

"What they are offering is a chaotic alternative of higher taxes, higher borrowing and a return to economic chaos. Britain doesn't want to come back to square one."

He denied that comments this weekend made by senior ministers on both sides of the coalition were damaging.

"I know there's an election in a few months' time and there's going to be a real choice for the country."

The chancellor also refused to accept thousands more public sector jobs would be lost with future public spending cuts.

"It depends on the decisions we are prepared to take on pay. If we go on taking what I think are realistic decisions on public sector pay then we can still afford to have people in sufficient numbers in the public sector to do the job we ask of them."

Mr Osborne's comments are the latest in a series of tit-for-tat attacks between the two coalition government parties.

Speaking on Sunday, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: "I just think the Conservatives are kidding themselves and seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it is possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants."

'Policy objectives'

Asked on Monday's BBC Radio 4 Today programme if it was possible for the present administration to survive, given the mounting sniping, Mr Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Absolutely it is.

"What we have done, and we showed this last week in the Autumn Statement, is work effectively together to deliver a very Liberal Democrat package of measures with lots of income tax cuts, tax reforms, sticking to the path on the public finances.

Media caption,

Danny Alexander: "In the future after the election, there are quite big differences between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats"

"So we have shown that we can work well together in this Parliament. What we are doing is something that should be totally unsurprising, which is two political parties - with very different ideologies - setting out their views about the future of this country in a clear and distinct way and I am going to continue doing that for the next five months and beyond but that does not in any way undermine our ability to work effectively together in this coalition to keep the country on the right path."

Asked if there could be another Conservative/Lib Dem administration he said: "As we said at the general election in 2010, we would seek to talk first with whichever party had the strongest mandate in the event of a hung parliament.

"That is the responsible thing to do. What we are doing now is setting out precisely and clearly what are the Liberal Democrat policy objectives in the next parliament."