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Rishi Sunak told public services need £43bn a year to ‘stand still’

Frontline services ‘short-staffed and overwhelmed’, say TUC

Adam Forrest
Thursday 10 November 2022 08:49 GMT
Nurses have voted to strike over pay as fears of austerity grow
Nurses have voted to strike over pay as fears of austerity grow (Getty)

Rishi Sunak has been warned that public services need an additional £43bn a year simply to “stand still”, as his government prepares to make swingeing cuts in a bid to balance the books.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the prime minister must “protect” frontline services and workers’ pay from the impact inflation and Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget.

TUC and New Economics Foundation research shows an extra £43bn a year will be needed by 2024-25 so spending on public services stays at the level set out in last year’s spending review.

The union’s general-secretary Frances O’Grady said public services remained “short-staffed and overwhelmed” – warning that the “double whammy” of soaring inflation and the catastrophic mini-budget had “pushed them to the brink”.

She added: “We’ve all heard the stories of people waiting too long for ambulances – and sitting on waiting lists for operations for months. We can all see too many schools are crumbling – and local councils are struggling to run basic services.”

The NHS and social care face the largest shortfall in funding, according to the report – with the health service set to face a gap of £15.7bn a year by 2024-25.

NHS operations and appointments are set to be cancelled after a historic vote by nurses to strike over pay. Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have urged ministers to “get round the table” and start addressing their pay concerns to avoid the disruption.

Education, meanwhile, faces a shortfall of a £7.1bn a year compared to last year’s spending review, while justice faces an annual black hole of £900m.

The TUC called on Mr Sunak and his chancellor to “fully protect” public services and their staff against inflation at next week’s autumn statement – arguing that it would help speed up an economic recovery.

Ms O’Grady added: “As chancellor, the new prime minister must keep his promise that he will fund ‘world-class public services’. Our NHS, schools and public services must not be collateral damage to the Tories crashing the economy in 2022.”

Mr Sunak and his chancellor Jeremy Hunt are said to mulling a 50-50 split of spending cuts and tax rises to address a black hole in the public finances of up to £60bn.

The prime minister will urge Nicola Sturgeon and other devolved leaders to be “pragmatic” about spending cuts at face-to-face talks on Thursday.

The Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader is expected to stress the importance of avoiding “damaging austerity” measures.

Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt are thought be keen to raise both benefits and state pensions in line with inflation, a move that would likely usher in deeper public spending cuts elsewhere as well as higher tax rises.

The prime minister is reportedly ready to impose a delay to a cap on social care costs. It will not be introduced before 2025, according to The Times – saving £1bn in the first year and rising to £3bn a year if it were scrapped.

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