Darling turns down Ed Balls' request for £2.6billion increase to education budget

Alistair Darling and Ed Balls and were last night embroiled in a bitter feud over public spending.

The Chancellor slapped down Mr Balls after he launched an audacious bid for a budget increase of £ 2.6billion over the next three years.

Mr Darling has ordered every Whitehall department to find savings at a time of unprecedented strain on the public purse.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling
Schools Secretary Ed Balls

No way: Alistair Darling has dismissed a bid by Ed Balls to have an inflation-busting increase to education spending

They have been warned they face a spending ceiling next year of 0.7 per cent after inflation.

But in an extraordinary move, Mr Balls has asked for a real terms budget increase of 1.3 per cent over four years - almost twice as high.

This would force severe cuts across all other departments.

Allies of Mr Balls hit back claiming that Mr Darling had asked him to send in a bid. But Treasury sources made clear that the move by Mr Balls's Department of Children, Schools and Families was wrongly timed and would not be considered.

'When the time comes, and the time hasn't come, we will look at every single department's bid. But there is not going to be a mini-CSR in the budget,' one said.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond said: ' Gordon Brown's government is disintegrating. His ministers seem more interested in fighting political turf wars over departmental budgets than solving the economic problems facing this country.'

Mr Balls's demand for more cash comes weeks after the Schools Secretary became the first minister to spell out how Labour would make spending cuts.

He detailed plans to make more than £2billion of cost savings - worth some 5 per cent of the total schools budget.

Labour MPs are privately suggesting that Mr Ball's latest move is an attempt to portray himself as the champion of public spending.

The Schools Secretary wants Labour to commit itself to protecting children's services at the next General Election - making education a key battleground with the Tories.

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