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20 Nov, 2020 15:51

‘No return to austerity’ in the UK, PM Johnson’s spokesman says

‘No return to austerity’ in the UK, PM Johnson’s spokesman says

Austerity will not return to the UK, Boris Johnson’s spokesman insisted on Friday, citing the prime minister and his finance minister, Rishi Sunak. However, Sunak is expected to announce a public pay freeze.

“Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor [of the Exchequer] have been clear that we will not return to the austerity of the past,” the spokesman said, answering a question on whether there will be a renewed squeeze on public sector pay. “Departmental spending will increase above inflation on both day-to-day spending and longer-term investment,” he added.

However, British media reports say that over four million public sector workers are facing a pay freeze, as the government deficit could hit a peacetime record in 2020-21 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sunak is likely to announce the heaviest public borrowing since World War Two next week. He is also expected to announce the “pay restraint,” which would affect soldiers, police officers, teachers and civil servants.

Frontline doctors, nurses and other NHS workers are likely to be exempt from the wage cap, as the country is going through a second – and severe – wave of coronavirus cases.

Also on rt.com UK govt unveils new job support scheme, but warns it ‘cannot save every business’

The government may argue that in the private sector, many people have already faced pay cuts or the loss of their jobs. But unions have warned against a pay freeze, with Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), saying that “working people must not bear the burden of the crisis.”

Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB trade union, said that “it’s dangerous territory for the chancellor,” and remarking that “billions are being wasted, flowing out of the Treasury into the pockets of [the government’s] chums,” in reference to lucrative contracts reportedly awarded to companies with ministerial links.

Sunak said on Friday that public finances need to be put on a sustainable path over time, after more than £200 billion in support schemes was provided “to protect the economy, lives and livelihoods from the significant and far-reaching impacts of coronavirus.”

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