Treasury Secretary and Birmingham MP Liam Byrne has insisted the Government’s Pre-Budget Report set out “a clear plan” for reducing the deficit.
Speaking to The Birmingham Post, he said it included proposals “to protect front-line public services which people think are really important”.
And Mr Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) denied the Government was holding back difficult decisions until after the next election.
“We set out the bad news in this statement,” he said. “There were £25 billion of efficiencies and cuts.”
Although the Chancellor announced he was ring-fencing some health and education spending, he seemed to leave the door open for cuts in other public services – on top of the savings announced. Mr Byrne admitted: “We can’t rule that out.”
Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North), the Minister for the West Midlands, said the Government deserved credit for keeping job losses to a minimum during the recession.
He said: “Without the action taken by Labour over the last two years, literally tens of thousands more jobs in West Midlands would have been lost.
“The Tories’ judgement has been wrong on the recession and wrong on the recovery at every step of the way.”
An estimated one million people in the West Midlands would benefit from plans to increase the state pension by £2.40 to £97.65 per week, or by £3.85 to £156.15 a week for couples, he said.
But Tories argued the Government had made “a tactical error” by putting up National Insurance for anyone earning more than £20,000.
The decision would undermine Labour’s claim to be looking out for “the many, not the few”, as it had decided to tax people on relatively modest incomes, Conservatives said.
Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden and Conservative Shadow Local Government Secretary, said: “I agree with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, who have been quick to condemn this as a blow to business recovery – a future Conservative Government would avoid this.”
But Conservatives shied away from making a firm promise to reverse Labour’s decision if the Tories win the next election. Instead, Conservatives will say it is their “top priority” if the money is there to pay for it.
A senior Tory also said the party would not oppose Labour’s tax on bank bonuses, despite doubts over whether it can be enforced.
Mrs Spelman also highlighted the Government’s refusal to publish a comprehensive spending review, which sets out detailed budgets for public services.
She said: “Labour has ducked dealing with the debt and has cancelled the pre-election review, which means that the plans announced were simply not credible because departmental spending has not been set out.
“This really sounds like an avoidance of the important issues.”
Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull and Lib Dem small business spokeswoman, said: “There is little in the pre-Budget report to provide any Christmas cheer for West Midland’s businesses.”