So where will the axe finally fall?
Downing Street has rejected a renewed move by Iain Duncan Smith to cut child benefit from parents with more than two children as a way of helping to achieve the £12bn in welfare cuts proposed by George Osborne.
No 10 made a point on Monday of distributing remarks by David Cameron on the eve of the general election in which the prime minister confirmed that child benefit would be retained in its current form for the next five years.
The intervention by Downing Street suggests that Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is heading for a showdown with George Osborne over his planned welfare cuts before next month’s budget.
Duncan Smith believes it is possible to achieve £12bn in welfare cuts, which amounts to 10% of the non-pensioner elements of welfare spending, but believes it will have to involve behavioural change by claimants rather than “cheese paring”.