Britain braces for govt spending review

26 November, 2020 12:00 AM printer

LONDON: Britain’s government will later Wednesday launch spending plans for the next year as it seeks to support the coronavirus-ravaged economy and chart the nation’s post-Brexit future.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak will address parliament at 1230 GMT, with one week to go until England ends a month of restrictions aimed at curbing a second wave of infections, reports AFP.

Sunak will unveil departmental resource and capital budgets for 2021/2022, as he also eyes ongoing EU trade talks before the Brexit transition period ends at the end of December.

“My number one priority is to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak said in a statement ahead of his speech.

“This spending review will ensure hundreds of thousands of jobs are supported and protected in the acute phase of this crisis and beyond with a multi-billion (pound) package of investment to ensure that no-one is left without hope or opportunity.”

He will launch a three-year jobs programme to help more than a million unemployed people get back into work in the wake of the pandemic.

Sunak has refused to say whether he will impose a public sector pay freeze, angering unions and the main opposition Labour party, as he wrestles with the soaring public debt fuelled by the virus.

Recent data shows state debt has exceeded £2.0 trillion for the first time ever, as the pandemic pushed the UK economy into a record recession.

Britain’s rightwing government has already spent billions so far this year on battling the economic fallout from the virus, paying private-sector wages, and boosting the state-run National Health Service (NHS).

The Treasury has already revealed that the NHS will receive another £3.0 billion in the spending review.

Sunak warned last weekend that the British economy was under “enormous strain” because of Covid-19 — but ruled out cuts to public services.

Following the statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) watchdog will publish its latest economic growth forecasts, detailing the damage caused by the virus.

The OBR is also expected to reveal an explosion in public borrowing which could reach almost £400 billion for the current financial year to March.

Britain has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world in the outbreak, registering more than 54,000 deaths from 1.4 million cases.

At the start of November, England effectively shut down for the second time this year to try to curb spiking virus infections and deaths.

To help cushion the blow, the government rolled out a new multi-billion-pound support package by extending its furlough jobs scheme paying the bulk of workers’ wages until the end of March


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