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Osborne Admits Mistake Over Disability Cuts

The chancellor tries to calm a Conservative Party unnerved by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.

George Osborne
British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne testifies before a parliamentary committee in London, England, September 8, 2015 (House of Lords/Helen Jones)

George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, recognized on Tuesday he had made “a mistake” in trying to cut £1.3 billion per year from disability benefits.

The admission came days after Iain Duncan Smith stepped down as work and pensions secretary in protest to the planned cuts.

Osborne told Parliament on Tuesday the cuts would be canceled and £4 billion in savings for the remainder of its term would be found elsewhere in the welfare budget.

Social justice

Osborne disputed Duncan Smith’s insinuation that he did not care enough about the poor, saying he was working for “real, decent, hard-working people, not numbers on a Treasury spreadsheet,” who would lose out if the government spent beyond its means.

“Without sound public finances there is no social justice,” the chancellor said.

Retreat

It is not the first time Osborne has had to backtrack.

Last year, he was forced to reconsider reductions in tax credits after the House of Lords rejected reforms.

Duncan Smith’s resignation threatens to divide the ruling Conservative Party between supporters and opponents of Osborne and his policy.