Alistair Darling has made it clear that next week’s Budget will not spell out any new spending cuts.
The chancellor said the package on 24 March would instead focus on measures to encourage economic growth.
He also delivered a bullish assessment of the prospects for UK plc - suggesting lower than expected unemployment could give him more room for manoeuvre.
The comments will fuel criticism that the government is trying to avoid setting out exactly how it plans to halve the country’s £178bn deficit over the next four years.
Interviewed on Sky News’ Sunday Live programme, Mr Darling admitted the Budget would be “critical” in deciding the result of the general election.
“Of course it is important because the economy and the decisions we take that will affect the next five, 10, 20 years are pretty critical to the big decision, the big choice the country will make whenever the election is called.
“Crucially we have got to plan now to ensure we get growth for the future because growth is what brings jobs, jobs is what will bring rising living standards.”
Asked if he would give details of spending cuts, Mr Darling said: “I will carry on spelling out what we have done, and the progress that we are making both on supporting the economy and reducing our borrowing levels, the deficit levels, that is important.”
Write your own manifesto
Have you ever felt so frustrated with the political parties’ health policies that you wished you could write your own? Now your chance has come.
On hsj.co.uk we have set up two wikis - websites that allows users to easily (and anonymously) create and edit content - to enable managers and clinicians to develop their own policy ideas. At the time of writing they are blank, awaiting the collective wisdom of HSJ readers.