Chancellor holds series of cabinet meetings to identify which programmes to target

Cabinet ministers have already begun discussing where to make spending cuts with chancellor Alistair Darling, just days after the government admitted for the first time that spending cuts would have to be made.

According to the BBC, the chancellor this week inaugurated a series of meetings with cabinet ministers to start to identify on what programmes the axe would have to fall. The reports said the chancellor was not yet asking for a specific percentage saving from particular departments, but that could follow in due course.

The reports also said it was likely the chancellor would use this autumn's pre-budget report to conduct a mini-spending review, and outline spending priorities for the next few years ahead. This comes after the formal spending review was delayed by the government in the summer until after the election.

On Tuesday Gordon Brown told the TUC he would "cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes and cut lower priority budgets". But he said Labour would not "support cuts in the vital front-line services on which people depend".

The move is thought to be designed to put pressure on the Conservatives to reveal where they are planning to make spending cuts in advance of the election. It follows yesterday's leaked Treasury papers which seemed to suggest the government was planning a 9.3% cut in government expenditure over the four years from 2010.