Rebellion threat over BBC cuts

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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

Senior Tory MPs were last night threatening a rebellion to defend the BBC Overseas Service from the Treasury's 5 per cent cut in running costs across Whitehall.

Foreign Office sources last night confirmed that the cut in running costs could be passed on to the BBC from the Foreign Office. "It's decided internally how we sort it out within our budget," said one source.

Peter Temple-Morris, leader of the Macleod group of Tory MPs, said he was "very concerned" about the cuts threat and was tabling questions for Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, to ensure it was not passed on to the BBC Overseas Services, which has been cut by pounds 5m in the past three years.

Civil Service leaders were also alarmed at the prospect of the 5 per cent cut in running costs across the board, disclosed in the Independent.

It could mean cuts in service to the public, and reductions in already overstretched public services such as dole and benefit offices, said Tony Rouse, vice-president of the National Union of Civil and Public Servants, representing thousands of lower-paid civil servants.

"Any cut in running costs is going to cost jobs. It is being done by a Government which is clearly hell-bent on getting elected by cutting taxes, but it will mean reductions in services. We have got no fat left at all. There is too much being asked of members," he said.

The cuts will be confirmed in the Budget by the Chancellor on 28 November, and the Whitehall unions were last night considering linking up in united opposition to any threat of job losses.