UK & World News

  • 25 January 2014, 10:17

Balls Commits To Balancing The Nation's Books

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is promising to balance the nation's books, run a budget surplus and cut the national debt if Labour win power.

In a speech to the Fabian Society Annual Conference today, Mr Balls will make a raft of commitments on the economy and public finances.

New laws introducing tough fiscal rules would be introduced during the party's first year in power and rolling five-year targets scrapped under Labour's plans.

The party is seeking to regain ground on the economy by demonstrating its fiscal discipline following growth forecasts that are favourable for the coalition Government.

The move echoes Chancellor George Osborne's plans to lock in deficit-reduction plans until the end of the next parliament.

But Labour insists the timescale for its commitment is dependent on the state of the economy after the election.

Mr Balls will say: "I am today announcing a binding fiscal commitment.

"The next Labour government will balance the books and deliver a surplus on the current budget and falling national debt in the next Parliament. 

"So my message to my party and the country is this: where this government has failed, we will finish the job.

"We will abolish the discredited idea of rolling five year targets and legislate for our tough fiscal rules within 12 months of the general election.

"We will get the current budget into surplus as soon as possible in the next Parliament. How fast we can go will depend on the state of the economy and public finances we inherit."

Mr Balls' bid to bolster Labour's economic position will see him repeat his claim that coalition austerity has flatlined the economy and spurred the cost of living crisis.

Mr Balls will say: "Tory claims their plan is working are not going to wash with working people who are seeing their living standards falling and for whom this is no recovery at all.

"Because the current cost-of-living crisis is not just about people on tax credits, zero-hours contracts and the minimum wage. It's also about millions of middle-class families who never thought that life would be such a struggle."

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, said: "Labour needs to prove it has cast-iron plans to reduce the national debt when it returns to power. But the top priority for sustainable economic growth is investment.

"Ed Balls needs to show that his fiscal plans will not prevent Labour spending for the future."

Sky's Sophy Ridge said: "What he's going to do today is set out a timetable for when Labour want to try and eliminate the deficit by.

"He will say he will bring Britain back into the black by 2020 if there's a Labour government after the next election. That's a year later than George Osborne has currently committed to.

"It's all about Labour trying to regain voters trust on the economy."

:: Watch Ed Balls' speech at 10.30am live on Sky News, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

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