Britain's coalition sets out plans to cut record deficit
Britain's new coalition government Monday sets out plans to slash government spending by 6.0 billion pounds (6.9 billion euros, 8.7 billion dollars) to reduce the nation's record deficit.
Amid warnings that the "age of plenty" is over, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration will indicate where the axe is set to fall and unveil proposals to raise more revenue for the country's empty coffers.
"We're setting out where we'll make six billion pounds worth of savings -- and every day after that we will make sure that the most vulnerable in society are protected from cuts," Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in the popular News of the World paper Sunday.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave efforts to reduce the debt an added sense of urgency Sunday, suggesting that the speed at which the eurozone crisis had developed meant Britain could no longer hold off making cuts.
Official data released on Friday showed that the deficit had hit 156.1 billion pounds in 2009/2010, or 11.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
That was lower than the previous estimate of 163.4 billion pounds -- but still a record high level.
The Sunday Times reported that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would bear the brunt of the initial cuts, making savings of 900 million pounds.
It added that the coalition plans to save 513 million pounds by slashing the budgets of advisory bodies and abolishing others, while civil servants' perks such as taxis, flights and hotel accommodation are also targets.
The coalition of Cameron's Conservative party and Clegg's Liberal Democrats could also end up cutting between 300,000 and 700,000 public sector jobs over the coming years, the weekly broadsheet added.
The government also plans to secure 8.0 billion pounds via a special tax on banks, according to The Independent on Sunday.
The paper said the figure is nearly three times higher than originally planned by finance minister George Osborne.
Ahead of the country's general election earlier this month, Clegg had publicly opposed plans by the Conservatives to cut public spending this year by 6.0 billion pounds -- saying it was too much, too soon.
But on Sunday, he warned of hard times ahead and revealed the escalating eurozone crisis had persuaded him it was right to start making cuts immediately.
"The age of plenty where money could be thrown around in almost carelessness, which is what the outgoing Labour government has done for some time now, is over," he said in a BBC interview.
Clegg continued: "I don't think anybody could have anticipated then (before the election) quite how sharply the economic conditions in the eurozone would have deteriorated and that the need to show that we were trying to get to grips with this suddenly became much greater."
The crisis had created "immense anxiety on our European doorstep -- the European Union market to which we export the vast majority of our services and goods," he said.
Britain's public finances have been ravaged by a record-length recession that has slashed tax revenues and ramped up expenditure, as well as by enormously expensive banking-sector bailouts.
© 2010 AFP