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This Budget Hits the Working Poor, the Disadvantaged Young, and the Public Sector, All While Helping the Very Wealthiest

08/07/2015 17:05 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

If you have any lingering doubts about the difference the Liberal Democrats made in government over the last five years, the Budget policies announced by George Osborne this afternoon should dispel them.

Just look at the choices Osborne makes without Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander to push him in another direction.

At a time when 6.6million people in working families live in poverty, he's hitting some of the poorest and most vulnerable - and, incidentally, hardest-working - families by freezing working-age benefits, which amounts to a real terms cut of 11% over four years. He's taking another £4billion a year from those in work by withdrawing tax credits sooner and more sharply as your income rises, and cutting support for families with more than two children as well.

At a time when fewer and fewer people can afford to buy or even rent a decent home, the Conservatives are making cuts to social housing which the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates will mean 14,000 fewer affordable homes will be built.

At a time when we need to encourage young people from all backgrounds to gain the skills they'll need to get the well-paying jobs of the future, they're scrapping the maintenance grants that give so many young people the life-changing chance of a university education. When I worked in Higher Education, I saw up close what a difference the government makes by extending this support to disadvantaged students at such a crucial stage in their lives. When the Liberal Democrats were in Government, we made good progress increasing the numbers of young people from poor areas going to university - partly because we prevented the Tories from doing exactly this. Now, left to their own devices, they risk setting that good work back.

And, at a time when public sector workers have taken enough pain already, Osborne's piling on more. The Coalition asked a great deal of public sector workers, and their sacrifices and hard work are what allowed us to bring down the deficit and get the economy back on track while maintaining the public services on which we all rely. But the Liberal Democrats have always been clear: once the economy has returned to strength, it's time to reward them with decent pay rises. Instead, even as he boasts about our growth rate, George Osborne is hitting them with pay rises of 1% - well below inflation - for another four years. In real terms, it'll mean a 7% for the five million workers in our schools, hospitals, local authorities and other public services.

All of this while spending £1billion cutting inheritance tax only for the wealthiest 8% of estates.

That, as clear as could be, is the Conservative approach. Hitting the working poor, the disadvantaged young, and the hard-working public sector. Helping the very wealthiest. It's an approach the Liberal Democrats fought every day in Government, and it's an approach we'll continue to fight in this Parliament. We will always argue for a fairer, more equal society that tackles poverty and poor housing to enlarge freedom for everyone.