Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that public services have already been “cut to the bone” and the Tories are obsessed with “destroying” the welfare state.
The outspoken minister became the latest senior Liberal Democrat to launch a stinging attack on their Conservative coalition colleagues.
Chancellor George Osborne announced last week that he would seek a further £25billion of savings through cutbacks if he remains in office after the election in May.
But Mr Cable told the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow that he would never back such a plan, and that the Tories were “lying” by suggesting taxes would not rise.
“Key public services have already been cut to the bone from legal aid and local government, to policing and defence,” he told party activists.
“The Tories are ideologically obsessed by cuts because they see it as a way of destroying public services and the welfare state, which they detest.
“Let us be clear. The Tories’ proposal to take another £25billion or more out of welfare and unprotected government departments will do great harm to valuable services – to imagine otherwise is fantasy. I will categorically not go along with this.”
Setting out clear dividing lines between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives on the economy as May’s election approaches, Mr Cable said: “Any politician who tells you that the next government can balance the budget and avoid tax increases is lying to you.”
The business secretary also called for the UK Government to borrow money to stimulate the economy.
“When interest rates are so low, borrowing for investment is a no-brainer and is nothing to do with deficit reduction,” he said.
He announced plans for a wide-ranging review to strengthen the employment status and rights of up to a million British workers, and a £1-an-hour pay rise for 31,000 apprentices in the first year of their programme.
“I believe we should be pro-business but we should also be pro-worker,” he said.
Referring to the Scottish independence referendum and the debate over the UK’s EU membership, Mr Cable said that the “politics of identity” was on the march around the world.
“Our party has a massive responsibility to be the voice of sanity, seriousness and sense – standing up to the purveyors of panic, prejudice and pessimism,” he said.