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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak pledges ‘no return to austerity’

In recent weeks the chancellor Rishi Sunak has been careful to project a confident image

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged to avoid austerity even as the UK economy is battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday program, the chancellor could not rule out a public sector pay freeze.

The chancellor said any “wage settlements” need to be considered “in the context of the wider economic climate”.

Sunak’s interview with Sky News comes ahead of a spending review where he is expected to unveil a £100 billion plan for long-term infrastructure investment and a £3 billion funding package in support of the National Health Service (NHS) as part of a post-pandemic recovery plan.

“You will not see austerity next week [in the spending review], what you will see is an increase in government spending, on day-to-day public services, quite a significant one coming on the increase we had last year”, Sunak told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.

However, the chancellor was more evasive on future pay policy by claiming: "When we launched the spending review I did say to departments that when we think about public pay settlements I think it would be entirely reasonable to think of those in the context of the wider economic climate”.

The Labor Party immediately hit out at Sunak’s veiled threat to public sector pay, even though the pay cap is not expected to affect NHS staff.

Labor’s shadow business minister, Lucy Powell, made the following comment to the same program on Sky News: "Of course it would be morally absolutely a kick in the teeth, wouldn't it, for all those frontline workers who helped support us through this pandemic from the bin collectors to those working in public health, in the mortuaries, the fire fighters and so on”.


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