Shadow chancellor George Osborne has outlined how a Conservative administration would cut the public purse to fund frontline services and encourage ‘saving’ to fund investment.
The unsmiling and sober Osborne outlined what he sees as the failure of Labour during the past 12 years.
“We all borrowed too much. Were we the only ones to do this in the world? No we were not. We were the ones to do this more than anyone else. We are sinking in a sea of debt.
“You cannot have a sustained recovery until you can show that Britain can pay its way.
“The world is watching Britain, questioning our credit worthiness.
“We need to show political leadership and take the difficult decisions. The Chancellor borrowing £175bn this year but did not mention it in his conference speech.
He also set out where he believes cuts should come - the public sector workforce pay.
“This June we told the truth and said whoever wins the election would have to make cuts.
“Pay restraint is a necessity. How to build the sort of Britian we want in the face of the largest budget deficit?
“I cannot give you the 2010 budget in 2009 but I want you to understand the kind of government we want to be.
“There cannot be one rule for Westminster and another rule for everyone else. Ministers will take a 5% pay cut then have it frozen for the rest of parliament. We will cut the number of MPs by 10%,” he said.
He also said that: “excessive” salaries would have to go. “Any pubic servant paid more than the Prime Minister will have to go before the chancellor, and I am not expaecting a long queue.”
He said Parliament will be required to close its unaffordable pension scheme to new members. Similar cuts will be made in the Civil Service.
“We won’t need a huge tier of regional government second-guessing the decisions of elected local councillors.”
He said Whitehall would be cut by one-third over the next Parliament - saving, he said, £3bn per year.
He also made a tantalising reference to a: “saving society”, which hints at using savings - pension money or otherwise - to invest in public projects.
“Gordon Brown’s disastrous raid on pensions heralded the start of the age of irresponsibility.
“So today I say we will reverse the effects of Gordon Brown’s pensions tax raid and get our country saving again.
“That saving will fund investment - investment in real business,” he said.