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UK Labour urges PM May to show end of austerity in practice

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) and shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are seen in this September 24, 2018 file photo. (AFP photo)

Britain’s opposition Labour Party has called on Prime Minister Theresa May to deliver on her promises of ending nearly a decade of austerity, saying May’s administration must show to the public in the next year budget that spending cuts are really over.

Labour’s finance policy chief John McDonnell, the second in command of the party, said Thursday that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond should avoid sticking to financial “tricks” in his next week budget announcement and  provide the public with facts that could support government claims of ending austerity in Britain after eight years.

“We need decisive action to end and reverse austerity, not some vague promises for the future and a few financial conjuring tricks,” said McDonnell, who is also Britain’s so-called shadow chancellor, adding, “This budget will show us whether she (May) is true to her word or not.”

The Conservative-led government has adopted a series of measures since 2010 to cut public spending in order to reduce Britain’s budget deficit. Those measures have led to a visible decline in social care standards and delivery of public services while forcing many into poverty. According to official statistics, 14 million people, more than a fifth of Britain’s population, now live in poverty and rely on government support to make ends meet.

May said earlier this month in a Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that people in Britain should know that “their hard work has paid off” a decade after the financial crash of 2008. Her administration has claimed that Britain’s budget deficit has been cut to under 2 percent of gross domestic product in the last financial year from nearly 10 percent in 2009-10.

In his challenging speech on Thursday, McDonnell unveiled a dossier containing Labour’s research into impacts of government austerity on areas such as health, education and local services. The research said a total of 80 billion pounds of new funding was needed to reverse spending cuts since 2010 while reiterating that the government needed some 30 billion pounds to stop future cuts.

Treasury minister Liz Truss responded to McDonnell’s speech and said the government was travelling on the right path to shore up the British economy. Truss, a close ally of May, said more money was available for public services as a result of government policies to spur economic growth.


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