Conservatives Promise Belt-tightening Economic Measures

Tuesday the opposition Tories outlined a string of measures to tackle the country's record deficit. Thus they seek to present themselves prepared for power next year.

Shadow Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne said the country was "sinking in a sea of debt," blaming Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour government, and said everyone must play his or her part in getting public finances back into the black.

Polls and commentators suggest the Conservatives are all but certain to win power in elections due by next June, after 13 years in opposition.

Osborne promised to raise the retirement age earlier than expected, freeze public sector pay, cut benefits and red tape and maintain the top rate of income tax -- but said healthcare funding would continue to rise.

As the country struggles to emerge from a deep recession and a forecast deficit this year of 175 billion pounds, the economy is top of the agenda ahead of the general election, AFP reports. quoted Osborne as saying, "The excessive salaries at the top will have to go," Osborne told the Conservative conference in Manchester.

"In the current climate, anyone who wishes to pay a public servant more than the prime minister will have to put it before the chancellor. I am not expecting a long queue."

The bar will be lowered further, however, because party leader David Cameron has promised a 5% cut in ministerial pay if the Tories come to power next year.

This suggests that the move would affect newcomers, rather than those currently in post.

The policy could see the salaries for a swath of BBC roles plummet unless a Tory-led Treasury agreed that they deserved to earn more than the prime minister, who is paid ?194,254 for the job of running the country, reports.

In the meantime, the speech by Mr Osborne was also about his character, an attempt by the shadow chancellor to prove to the nation and to the City of London that he has the ideas and the courage to take Britain out of the recession.

There have been doubts from some in the past.

Mr Osborne criticised the chancellor and the prime minister but was unusually restrained, not mentioning his bete noir Lord Mandelson once despite the business secretary's "boy George" jibe last week.

The aim was deliberately to show Mr Osborne more as a chancellor-in-waiting than his more traditional role of political attack dog.

So George Osborne hopes he'll be seen in sitting rooms and board rooms as a tough shadow chancellor who is taking tough decisions and risking unpopularity to do what is right and necessary, BBC News reports.

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