George Osborne has said billions of pounds of savings he will announce next week is “not a huge amount”.
The Chancellor today made clear his Budget on Wednesday will contain “additional savings”, and suggested cuts will amount to around 50p in every £100 spent by the state by the end of the decade - even though that could mean £4 billion more of cuts.
“I think we can find those savings,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “It is not a huge amount in the scheme of things.”
George Osborne: "We need to act now so we don’t pay later."
His comments are likely to prompt anger among those outraged that welfare cuts are already hurting the most vulnerable in society.
Briefings to newspaper this weekend have suggested the Chancellor is preparing to use the £130 slashed from 600,000 disabled people's Personal Independence Payment to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p tax.
And speaking to Marr, the Chancellor hinted that he would not be hiking fuel duty despite tumbling oil prices, a giveaway that since 2011 is on course to cost the Treasury £30 billion, as the Huffington Post UK revealed.
On the BBC show, the Chancellor made the case for further cuts: “My message in the Budget is that the world is a more uncertain place than at any time since the financial crisis, and we need to act now so we don’t pay later.
“That's why I need to find additional savings, equivalent to 50p in every £100 the government spends by the end of the decade. Because we’ve got to live within our means, to stay secure, and that’s the way we make Britain fit for the future.”
Andrew Marr quizzes George Osborne this morning
He dismissed a much-trumpeted £18 billion financial “blackhole” as a “nominal” figure based on the global economic slowdown, and argued he is making sure the British economy is now “well-prepared” compared to the crash in 2008.
He said: “I want to roll up our sleeves, makes sure we are living within our mean, making sure our schools are better, our roads are better, our taxes are more competitive. We are not powerless in defence of these things.”
Pressed on the cuts, he said: “I think we can find those savings. It is not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things."
Osborne, seem as a potential successor to David Cameron as Tory Party leader, defended the PIP cuts and reform for the Employment and Support Allowance benefit.
He said: “We are increasing spending on disabled people. And the most disabled people get higher payments than they did under the Labour government. So we are increasing the support we provide for disabled people.”
Some MPs have suggested Osborne could hike fuel duty to bring in revenue, which has been frozen since 2011.
Today he said fuel duty increases were already "pencilled in" for future years - there is an automatic inflationary rise - but pointed to the Tory manifesto which promised to "protect" motorists.