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AUSTERITY Chancellor George Osborne’s bragging about supposed Tory “economic responsibility” was exposed as hot air yesterday after official figures confirmed he is firmly on course to miss government debt and borrowing targets.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) dealt a fresh blow to the floundering Treasury chief hours after he was forced into an embarrassing public retreat on his taxpayer-funded campaign to oppose an EU cap on bankers’ bonuses.
ONS number-crunchers revealed that from April to October the government had to borrow £3.7 billion more than last year, while Britain’s public debt stood at £1,449.2bn, up £97.1bn on 12 months ago.
That leaves passionate axeman Mr Osborne wildly wide of projections by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), which pinpointed low-paid jobs as the cause yesterday.
OBR estimates drawn up in March were based on 5.3 per cent growth in income tax and national insurance receipts, but the latest figures showed a mere 0.6 per cent rise.
That mirrors union warnings that falling unemployment is based on low-paid, part-time work that mainly falls within the £10,000 tax-free bracket.
Labour shadow Treasury secretary Chris Leslie branded the figures a “damaging setback” for the Chancellor.
“George Osborne’s promise to balance the books by next year lies in tatters,” he said.
“As the OBR has said, stagnating wages and too many people in low-paid jobs are leading to more borrowing.”
However, he repeated Labour’s austerity light position, vowing that the party “will balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament, but we will do so in a fairer way.”
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