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Labour accuses the Chancellor of 'fiscal massaging'

The Shadow Cabinet in the House of Commons today. Photo: Press Association

I have just returned from the briefing given my Labour after their Treasury team crunched some of the number in the hours after George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement.

The central criticism from Ed Balls is that the Chancellor delivered something not dissimilar to an emergency budget in order to project a change of strategy.

The Shadow Chancellor said Mr Osborne missed both his pledge to "balance the books" by 2015 and to have debt falling by the same year - which he had claimed was crucial to his credibility.

Labour also criticised the decision to score the income from the sale of the 4G licence on this year's balance sheet (£3.5bn) - and to spend the proceeds in the next financial year.

Ed Balls called it "fiscal massaging."

Labour's other concern was that those who will suffer from limiting the rise in benefits to 1% will be those in work: Not those who refuse to work, as the Chancellor claimed, because the decision will affect Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits.

The Shadow Chancellor, however, would not commit to voting against the Uprating Bill which is being pushed through Parliament within weeks.

The legislation is needed because the decision to increase benefits by 1% for the next three years needs primary legislation - and could be legally unsound with the Bill.

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