Ministers demand money in austerity ‘revolt’
Several senior members of the cabinet are calling for higher spending on public services such as health and education. Does this mean an end to the government’s policy of austerity?
Theresa May probably has not had many relaxing weekends recently, but this Sunday’s papers will have made particularly awkward reading.
Many of her cabinet ministers were in “revolt”, according to several papers.
The education secretary, Justine Greening, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and May’s deputy, Damian Green, have all been calling for increases in public spending.
This goes against the government’s central economic policy of austerity — spending less to shrink the deficit and reduce government debt.
After the 2017 election result, which saw Labour make gains by promising to increase spending on public services, senior Conservatives are questioning that policy.
If they needed a reminder, a poll yesterday saw the Conservatives fall 6% behind Labour.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, government debt and the annual budget deficit increased drastically. Between 2008 and 2010, the deficit went from £9.7 billion to £99.7 billion.
Since 2010, successive Conservative governments have pledged to reduce the deficit by cutting public spending.
But recently police, health officials, teachers and others have made the case for urgent spending increases to support their services.
The public mood seems to be shifting too. Last week, a survey found 48% of people support raising taxes and spending — the highest level since 2004.
Is it time to bring an end to austerity?
No, say some. Like a household, we cannot spend more than we earn. Any increase in spending will have to be funded by an increase in taxes, and once people realise this, it might not be so popular.
Yes, say others. Austerity has not produced the results we were promised. Besides, the economy does not work like a household. We need to invest in services in order to fuel economic growth.
- Should the government borrow money to invest in public services like the NHS?
- Appoint a class prime minister and divide the rest of the class into government departments (health, education etc). Hold a cabinet meeting where each department argues for funding. How will the PM divide their £1 billion budget?
Some People Say...
“Austerity punishes the poor for the mistakes of the rich.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Since 2010, the annual deficit has fallen, but government debt has not. Ministers have had to extend the expected length of their proposed austerity programmes several times.
- What do we not know?
- What things would look like if the UK had not had austerity. Some people say the UK could have ended up like Greece, while others say it would be growing faster, like the USA.
- The amount the government spends minus the amount it collects from taxes and other income each year.
- Government debt
- This is the total amount of debt the government has accrued.
- Carried out by Opinium for The Observer. It also found that May’s approval rating had sunk to -20%.
- Financial crisis
- The global crash of 2008 was the worst since the 1930s. It meant the government borrowed more and raised less in taxes.
- Some economists say that austerity has stifled economic growth and failed to shrink government debt.