LONDON – Fighting record debt, the British government on Wednesday outlined the largest cuts to public spending since World War II – slashing benefits and thousands of public-sector jobs with an austerity plan aimed at restoring the nation’s finances.
After the country spent billions bailing out indebted banks, and suffered a squeeze on tax revenue and an increase in welfare bills, Treasury chief George Osborne staked the coalition government’s future on tough economic remedies.
Osborne confirmed there would be $128 billion in spending cuts through 2015, which he claims are necessary along with some tax increases to wipe out a spending deficit of $172 billion.
As many as 500,000 public-sector jobs will be lost, about $28.5 billion axed from welfare payments and the pension age raised to 66 by 2020, earlier than previously planned.
Even Queen Elizabeth II will take a hit, asked to trim the budget the government provides for her palaces and staff by 14 percent.
“It is a hard road, but it leads to a better future,” Osborne said, preparing the public for hardship as he seeks a balanced budget within four years.
Osborne stood on the floor of the House of Commons for more than an hour and ruthlessly dismantled program after program built during the Labour government’s 13-year reign, saying Britain must “confront the bills from a decade of debt.”
The Conservatives promised to scythe through Britain’s debts after forming a government with the smaller Liberal Democrats following an inconclusive May election.