The British public are largely in agreement on which Government Departments they would like to see cut or protected - except on Welfare and Defence
George Osborne today announces the conclusion of a long and controversial process of agreeing budget cuts with different departments, and will set out his plans to make further spending cuts and take the economy “out of intensive care”.
If the public had been in charge of the process, there would have been broad agreement on the top candidates for protection (NHS, Education, Policing and Pensions) and the top candidates for severe cuts (Environment, Overseas Aid).
The battleground areas, in which there are substantial groups of voters both who want to see major cuts and who want to see spending protected, are Defence and Welfare and Benefits.
The findings will highlight the political challenge ahead for the Government as it pursues its austerity plans. While Mr Osborne is relieved to have confirmed defence cuts - "I've settled with the defence department. Many people thought that was going to be one of the biggest challenges" – voters may prove less convinced. The Chancellor has also said that on pensions, the cost of an ageing nation means “we have got to look into how we can afford them.” However the poll shows that the public are significantly in favour of protecting them, with 38% choosing them as an area to be protected and only 3% selecting them as an area that could be cut.
In addition to announcing cuts, George Osborne will confirm investment in infrastructure projects to include upgrading the A14, a new Mersey Gateway bridge in the north-west and the first stage of work on the HS2 high-speed railway.
The Chancellor’s speech, called the Comprehensive Spending Review, outlines the government’s spending plans for 2015/2016, when Labour could potentially be in power. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said that he will not try to reverse Mr Osborne’s cuts, but could increase capital spending to create growth.