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Labour will inherit ‘worst economic situation since Second World War’, shadow chancellor warns

Labour will inherit the worst economic situation of any incoming government since the Second World War, Rachel Reeves warned today, accusing the Conservative Party of “burning the house down” during its time in government.

Talking in the run-up to next week’s budget, the shadow chancellor said that while George Osborne had promised to “fix the roof while the sun was shining” – a reference to his plans to reduce public spending and cut the deficit – in reality he had done the opposite.

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“This is the worst inheritance any incoming government will have had since the Second World War in terms of debt interest payments, growth, living standards and taxation.

“George Osborne said in 2010 that they were going to fix the roof. What they’ve done is smash the windows, broken the door down and are burning the whole house down.

“That is the reality for whoever is prime minister and chancellor after the next election – that’s the inheritance that whoever forms the next government is going to have to deal with,” she said.

The comments come amid speculation that Jeremy Hunt will use next week’s event to cut taxes, using up the remaining “headroom” he has against his fiscal rules. However, Labour said that with the tax burden at a 70-year high, households are unlikely to feel an enormous benefit.

The shadow chancellor signalled that she would potentially replicate any impending tax cuts, but that it would depend on whether they are compatible with her fiscal rules.

She said: “Fiscal responsibility is non-negotiable for me. The sums have to add up. Everything will be subject to the fiscal rules I’ve set out. I want taxes on working people to be lower. But it has to be affordable.”

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‘We’ll only cut taxes in a responsible way’

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Next Wednesday’s budget may be the final fiscal event ahead of the general election, though much depends on the date chosen by the prime minister, with Westminster insiders mostly expecting an October poll, with an outside chance of an early election in May.

Ms Reeves said: “I am not going to be able to turn everything round overnight. We are going to have to grow the economy. There will be a relentless focus on what we need to grow the economy.”

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