October 22, 2010 / 1:37 AM / 7 years ago

Nick Clegg rejects IFS austerity criticism

LONDON (Reuters) - Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Friday rejected as “complete nonsense” the verdict by an influential think tank on the government’s austerity drive.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg leaves the House of Commons by car in London October 20, 2010. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) on Thursday said that with the exception of the richest two percent, the overall thrust of the government’s five-year austerity drive -- which includes major cuts to welfare and government expenditure -- would hit the bottom half of earners hardest.

In an interview with the Guardian, Clegg said the Treasury had tried to provide more than a snapshot of tax and benefits.

On Wednesday Chancellor George Osborne outlined exactly where 80 billion pounds of cuts, the biggest such spending cuts in a generation, would be found.

Clegg said the IFS, which warned that the biggest losers from the cuts to welfare spending would be families with children, did not take into account such factors as public spending inputs that include childcare and social care.

“We just fundamentally disagree with the IFS,” Clegg said.

He said it was wrong to look at fairness through “one prism and one prism only which was the tax and benefit system.”

“It is a complete nonsense to apply that measure.”

Clegg, added: “The richest are paying the most.”

The deputy prime minister also acknowledged the decision to back an increase in university tuition fees had been a difficult one, given the Liberal Democrats’ election pledge that opposed such a move.

“It quite understandably raises questions about promises politicians make,” Clegg said.

“I signed a pledge that I have now not been able to honour.”

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by Matthew Jones

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