Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Get Tougher on Spending Cuts, Treasury Axeman Tells Cabinet

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Get Tougher on Spending Cuts, Treasury Axeman Tells Cabinet

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Waugh and Nicholas Cecil

TREASURY cuts chief Danny Alexander has asked Cabinet ministers to beef up their plans to slash public spending.

Amid fresh coalition splits over the nature and scale of the cuts, the Standard has been told that Mr Alexander has written to all colleagues asking for more detailed proposals.

His move is the latest in the tough round of negotiations before the October 20 spending review.

Downing Street today denied that the review process had been overshadowed by the row over health minister Anne Milton's plan to axe free school milk for under-fives.

After Prime Minister David Cameron was alerted to the danger of the punitive policy, No10 had to step in to make clear it would not go ahead.

In recent weeks ministers have battled against Treasury requests for demonstrable and practical reductions in costly or ineffective policies.

Only health and international development are protected from cuts with all other departments asked after the Emergency Budget in June to come up with reductions of between 25 and 40 per cent.

Mr Cameron praised Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith yesterday, prompting hopes that he could allow his minister to spend more in the short term to implement a simpler benefits system.

But the Prime Minister was also firm that he wanted to slash fraud costs from tax credits and benefits as a whole, although some coalition ministers today pointed out that Mr Cameron's numbers were awry.

Of the [pounds sterling]3.1 billion of fraud and error in the benefits system in 2009/10, just [pounds sterling]1billion is attributable to fraud -- and of the [pounds sterling]2.1 billion identified by Mr Cameron in the tax credit system, only [pounds sterling]460million is attributable to fraud.

Mr Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, sent his letter after a meeting of the Cabinet committee in charge of public expenditure. …

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