(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s opposition Labour Party will face the worst economic inheritance of any government since World War II if it wins the next election because the ruling Conservatives have spent so much, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said.

Speaking with reporters ahead of next week’s budget, Reeves labeled the Tories the party of slow growth, high tax, high debt and low living standards during their 14 years in power. “Every promise they have made they have broken,” she said.

Labour leads by about 20 points in the polls and is on course for a big majority at the general election, likely to be held later this year. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is expected to cut personal taxes in next Wednesday’s budget in a bid to lift his party’s chances.

Reeves said Labour will focus on the broader economic backdrop. Hunt may cut spending on already stretched public services and use all his headroom to lower taxes in the budget. That would leave Labour — which is bound by the same fiscal rule that debt must be falling as a share of GDP within five years — the choice of going into an election either promising to raise taxes or leaving services underfunded.

“This is the worst inheritance any incoming government has had since the Second World War in terms of debt, debt interest payments, growth, living standards and taxation,” Reeves said. 

Former Chancellor George Osborne promised in 2010 “to fix the roof,” she said. “What they’ve done is smash the windows, broken the door down and are burning the whole house down.”

Reeves acknowledged that public services, such as health and education, need more money and said the party also wants to lower taxes on working people, but only if it is affordable within her fiscal rules. 

“Fiscal responsibility is non-negotiable for me,” Reeves said. Labour has set out plans to raise about £5 billion from taxes on private school fees, private equity and those who get exemptions through status as not domiciled in the UK. 

She said Tory failures include: 

  • Average GDP growth of 1.5% a year since 2010 compared with 2% under Labour between 1997 and 2010.
  • The highest tax burden in 70 years, with 25 tax rises.
  • National debt at its highest level since the 1960s.
  • Debt interest payments 4.4% of GDP, the highest level since 1949.
  • A 3% increase in living standards since 2010 compared with 27% under the last Labour government.

To afford tax cuts for working people and more spending on public services, Labour will “have to grow the economy because we know we will face exactly the same trade-offs this lot face unless we can get out of this low-growth, high-tax spiral we are in today,” Reeves said.

Labour would work with business and get people off benefits and back to work to generate growth. “There are 700,000 more people absent from the labor market today than before the pandemic.”

“That is a huge crisis, but also a huge missed opportunity. We have 1.5 million vacancies. We have got to get people who can work back into work. That will be the focus, not the level of benefit, but how we get people off benefits and back into work and support them on that journey.”

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