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Liz Truss demands spending cuts in ‘plenty of areas’ of public services

Government warned against ‘act of national vandalism’ after call for ‘efficiencies’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 29 September 2022 19:39 BST
Liz Truss confirms she is looking for cuts in government departments

Prime minister Liz Truss has confirmed that she is looking for funding cuts across the public services, declaring that there are “plenty of areas” where taxpayers’ money could be saved.

Ms Truss’s comments come after the Treasury wrote to the heads of all Whitehall departments telling them to deliver proposals for “efficiency savings” in budgets, with neither health nor any other area of public spending exempt.

The move sparked warnings to Ms Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng not to embark on an “act of national vandalism” by demanding cuts from services such as the NHS which are already pared to the bone after a decade of austerity.

Asked where room for efficiencies could be found, Ms Truss was unable to provide examples of wasteful spending.

But she told Sky News: “There are plenty of areas where the government can become more efficient. We’re continually reviewing to make sure we’re getting good value for money and I think that’s what taxpayers expect.”

The prime minister added: “It’s absolutely right that we always need to get value for taxpayers’ money. Every pound that we take from somebody is a pound they could be spending on their future or on what they need to support themselves.

“So it’s right that we get value for money, and I’m always making sure that we deliver that.

“There are always ways that we can organise things more efficiently. But what I want to make sure is [that] taxpayer money is focused on frontline services, on getting our GP appointments, making sure people can get to see a doctor, making sure we deliver on our road projects – all of those things that people rely on us for.”

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has said he will deliver a medium-term fiscal plan on 23 November to spell out how he will balance the nation’s finances after an energy bill bailout costing £60bn in the first six months and a £45bn-a-year tax giveaway disproportionately benefiting the rich.

The Treasury letters have fuelled expectations of an austerity package of public service restraint, with Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting a five-year freeze on spending.

But NHS Providers said any such move would represent a “huge setback” to a service already stretched by a decade of austerity, warning it would risk choking off desired growth by making it more difficult for patients stuck in lengthy backlogs to get back to work.

The British Medical Association said it was “vital” that the chancellor stick with promises made only last week to maintain spending on health following his abolition of the Health and Care Levy.

And the head of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, told The Independent that any move to limit resources to health, education and other public services in Mr Kwarteng’s fiscal plan would amount to an “act of national vandalism”.

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