Conservative spending plans will mean £70 billion of cuts to public spending if the Tories win the election - more than double the amount admitted to by David Cameron and George Osborne - an analysis by Labour exposes today.
In a major speech in central London, Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said that the unprecedented and extreme scale of these spending cuts would pose a major risk to the National Health Service.
He said that if the £70 billion of spending cuts, minus the £12 billion George Osborne has pledged to cut from social security spending, were applied equally to non-protected departments they would lead to unprecedented cuts to vital public services such as policing, defence and social care.
Analysis published today shows the cuts would be so extreme that they would lead to the smallest police force since comparable records began, the smallest army since Cromwell and over a third of older people receiving social care losing their entitlement to it.
In his speech, Ed Balls challenges George Osborne to come clean and explain whether he will press ahead with these unprecedented, extreme and close to impossible cuts or admit that his spending plans could only be delivered by raising VAT again or cutting the National Health Service.
He also sets out how across the OECD there have been only seven countries since 1945 where reductions on this scale have been attempted and for which we have available health spending data. Across these examples, public spending on health care has been cut - on average by one per cent of GDP.
If the average experience of these past fiscal consolidations were to be replicated in the UK over the coming four years of the next Parliament, then this would imply a real terms cut in NHS spending of over £10 billion by 2019-20.
In his speech Ed Balls says:
"This is the implication of the choice that George Osborne made last December - and which he is now trying to brush under the carpet.
"If he is to deliver on his Autumn Statement plans for a £23 billion overall budget surplus, as he says, through a Budget with no fiscal loosening, while promising unfunded tax cuts in the next parliament, then he is going to have to deliver these colossal cuts.
"These would lead to the smallest police force since comparable records began, the smallest army since Cromwell, and over a third of older people receiving social care losing their entitlement to it.
"An unprecedented £70 billion of spending cuts which would be deeply destructive and close to impossible, even for this Chancellor. So George Osborne must surely have an alternative plan in his back pocket.
"The evidence is clear - countries which reduce public spending at the pace George Osborne intends have found they have had no alternative but to cut health spending.
"And those who have reduced public spending to the levels that George Osborne is seeking have health systems where charging for services is triple the share here.
"This shouldn't be a surprise. When George Osborne's plan means such extreme cuts to day to day departmental budgets it's common sense that the NHS, which makes up a full third of the £317 billion spent in those budgets, ends up footing the bill.
"Even though our NHS is currently under great financial pressure, the international evidence which we set out in our document today suggests that the NHS will end up paying the price if George Osborne pursues his extreme planned spending cuts.
"With the Conservatives planning cuts to day to day spending in the next Parliament more than double the level they claim - an unprecedented £70 billion of spending cuts which would be deeply destructive and close to impossible, even for this Chancellor - there is a real risk that the Chancellor will be forced to bear his promise to ring-fence the NHS.
"And after their broken pledge not to have a top-down re-organisation of the NHS in this Parliament, the British people know that the Tories have form when it comes to broken promises on the NHS."
In his speech, Ed Balls concludes:
"So the choice for the British people is now clear. A tough, but balanced and fair plan to deliver rising living standards and get the deficit down with Labour.
"Or an extreme and risky plan under the Tories for bigger spending cuts in the next four years than the last five years which would cause huge damage to our public services and put our NHS at risk.
"And the Tories now have a choice too. They can either say that these unprecedented, extreme and close to impossible cuts to our police, armed forces and social care are the true consequences of their spending plans.
"Or they can confess that their plans are in fact impossible to achieve without breaking their promise to protect the NHS.
"If David Cameron and George Osborne cannot spell out how their sums add up for non-protected departments in order to achieve their fiscal surplus, the British people can only conclude - and would be right to conclude - that alternative plans do exist: to cut NHS spending and introduce charging.
"David Cameron and George Osborne must come clean or the British people will draw their own conclusions. And then, in May, they will make their choice."