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23 Mar, 2013 09:34

UK police and armed forces to face cuts of ‘more than £1.6 billion’

UK police and armed forces to face cuts of ‘more than £1.6 billion’

The UK Ministry of Defence and Home Office will face further budgetary cuts, according to UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. He declares any public outrage will be ignored. The move foreshadows additional defense layoffs.

The slashes to the departments’ finances are due in 2015-16, and follow three years of existing cuts. The news emerged in the fallout from Wednesday’s budget statement, which planned 11.5 billion pounds (US$17.5 billion) of further broad-scale cuts for 2015-16; on Saturday, Alexander told the Telegraph that the MoD and HO would share the weight.

An independent auditor warned that the MoD could lose more than 1.6 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) from its 32-billion-pound ($48.7 billion) budget for 2015-16, according to the newspaper. These reductions would almost certainly lead to an accompanying fresh round of lay-offs.

Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP also warned that no amount of public outrage at the further cuts would influence the measures.

“It has no effect on the decisions I will make, or the view that I will take on the right balance. The idea that having a great public campaign will influence the outcome, that’s just wrong,”
he said.

Earlier this month, UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond cautioned that “any further reduction in the defense budget would fall on the level of activity that we were able to carry out.”

 British Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander (AFP Photo/Carl Court)

Tensions have flared as Conservative politicians, who currently head the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrat party, have voiced their support for continuing to slash Britain’s welfare budget, citing small falls in unemployment, instead of continuing to target the defense budget.

The group has come to be known as the ‘National Union of Ministers’, and is led by Home Secretary Theresa May. They demand that ‘ring-fenced’ spending be ended, which immunizes some departments from further cuts. These protected departments include the NHS and Department for International Development (DFID).

Alexander reiterated that the NHS, schools and international development would be ring-fenced when asked whether the Home Office and Ministry of Defence would be protected from further cuts, adding:  

“We will work through the details, but every department, including the ones you mention, will have to make savings.”
On the same day, it was announced that a supposed ‘cost-cutting’ NHS scheme to remotely monitor housebound patients will cost three times as much as expected.  

An anonymous Conservative source told the newspaper in February that there was

“a real concern that the Lib Dems want to protect the benefits culture at the expense of our troops.” This January, British PM David Cameron was forced to admit that military spending would not rise until after 2016, despite previous assertions that no more cuts would be made to MoD.

AFP Photo/Leon Neal

In February, Cameron announced that he would be “very open” to the idea of diverting billions of pounds from the foreign aid budget (Department for International Development) to the military.

A decision to increase the DFID budget to 12 billion pounds by the next election stirred uproar amongst opponents of cuts to other departments’ services. However, this diversion of funding has induced criticism, with head of policy at major UK-based charity Oxfam, Mark Lawson, saying Britain's aid money should go to

“schools, not soldiers.” Following Wednesday’s budget, Fitch global ratings agency said that the UK faced the

“heightened probability of a downgrade” towards the close of April. Moody’s downgraded the UK around a month ago, making it the first of the three major agencies to do so, in the process stripping the country of its AAA rating.