Marie Woolf and Jonathan Oliver
THE government last night accused Labour of pursuing a “scorched earth policy” before the general election, leaving behind billions of pounds of previously hidden spending commitments.
The newly discovered Whitehall “black holes” could force even more severe public spending cuts, or higher tax rises, ministers fear.
Vince Cable, the business secretary, said: “I fear that a lot of bad news about the public finances has been hidden and stored up for the new government. The skeletons are starting to fall out of the cupboard.”
The new cabinet has been discovering previously unknown contracts and uncosted spending commitments left by their spendthrift predecessors.
“There are some worrying early signs that numbers left by the outgoing government may not add up,” said Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister.
David Willetts, the universities minister, claimed that Labour had left behind “not so much an in-tray as a minefield”.
Billions of pounds in public money was committed in the run-up to the election campaign in a deliberate strategy to boost Labour’s chances at the ballot box and sabotage the next government.
One former Labour minister told The Sunday Times: “There was collusion between ministers and civil servants to get as many contracts signed off as possible before the election was called.”