George Osborne
UK chancellor George Osborne

George Osborne will on Monday set out plans to make 200,000 long-term unemployed carry out community work or intensive training if they want to claim benefits, as he sets out the case for further tough economic reforms at the Tory conference in Manchester.

The chancellor fears that the recent economic revival has allowed the Labour party to move the debate away from the precarious state of the public finances and on to a focus on sharing out the spoils of recovery.

So Mr Osborne will stress the need to keep pushing ahead with reforms, including a form of “workfare” for the long-term jobless, to cement the recovery, saying: “This battle to turn around Britain – it’s not even close to being over.”

Mr Osborne, who is also the party’s chief election strategist, wants voters to believe at the next election that the recovery and the public finances are still not secured and that it would be too risky to return to Labour.

“If you don’t have a credible economic plan, you simply don’t have a living standards plan,” he will say in response to Ed Miliband’s well-received speech to the Labour conference last week.

Repeating the refrain “it’s not over”, Mr Osborne will tell Tory members in Manchester: “We understand that there can be no recovery for all – if there is no recovery at all.”

Mr Osborne will tell his party to roll up its sleeves to prepare for a second term in which he expects to make an additional £25bn of spending cuts to eliminate the structural deficit, including a new onslaught on welfare.

As part of the party conference’s commitment to “hardworking people”, Mr Osborne will revive an earlier theme by contrasting their endeavour with those on the long-term jobless register, whom he has portrayed as being part of “blinds down Britain”.

From next April, the long-term unemployed will have to do some form of work or training in exchange for their benefits, with Mr Osborne declaring that the option of just “signing on” would disappear.

About 200,000 claimants of Jobseekers Allowance will either have to do full-time community work, attend a jobcentre every day to look for work or be placed on an intensive training programme to address why they are not working.

Dubbed “Help to Work”, the scheme is intended to get unemployed people back into the habits of work and echoes Labour’s similar promises to find work for the long-term unemployed.

However, Mr Osborne will present the scheme as “fixing the welfare system to end Labour’s something for nothing culture and support people out of benefits and into work”.

Earlier David Cameron confirmed plans to bring forward to next week the launch of the second phase of the government’s “Help to Buy” mortgage support scheme. “As prime minister I am not going to stand by while people’s aspirations to get on the housing ladder are being trashed,” he said.

The prime minister also said there would be no “mansion tax” if he wins the next election, a policy favoured by the party’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners, but which is fiercely opposed by wealthy Tory donors.

Ahead of the chancellor’s speech, David Willetts, minister for universities and science, is expected to announce a £200m capital investment for higher education institutions teaching the core “stem” subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Mr Willetts hopes the government funding will be matched by another £200m from industry, which could be supplied in kind through gifts such as specialist laboratory equipment.

Universities will bid for the funding, which is to be available for 2015/16, and preference will be given to departments demonstrating a strategy to encourage more women to study Stem subjects.

“This is an investment in Britain’s future,” Mr Willetts told the Financial Times. “Employers tell us that graduates sometimes lack practical skills because they haven’t been trained on up-to-date kit; this will help to solve that problem.”

In an interview with the BBC on Monday morning, Mr Osborne rejected a suggestion by Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, that the Tories might run joint candidates with Ukip at the next election.

“There aren’t going to be any deals with Ukip or any Conservative-Ukip candidates locally,” the chancellor said. “Any candidates standing for the Conservative party are Conservative candidates.”

Mr Osborne denied his party’s tough positions on Europe, immigration and welfare represented a move to the right to negate Ukip’s rise in the polls, saying the policies had “broad appeal” across the political spectrum.


Letter in response to this report:

The ‘tough but fair’ principle is applied selectively / From Mr David Crook

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