What began as an optimistic new Government just over a month ago has descended into a chaos of austerity according to this story, with all the implications that arise from that for people in high cost rural settings. This story tells us:
Health chiefs, public sector unions and teaching leaders expressed horror on Saturday after the new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, appeared to usher in a fresh era of austerity, and the threat of more misery for cash-strapped hospitals and schools.
In his first interviews since dramatically replacing Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday, Hunt provoked widespread alarm by promising “very difficult decisions” for government budgets.
The NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, warned the prospect of further cuts was “incredibly grim”.
The head of the largest teaching union for England and Wales denounced Hunt’s attempt to placate the financial markets as “disastrous” and “scary” for schools, while another teaching union, NASUWT, said deeper cuts would cause “immeasurable damage to children’s learning”.
Meanwhile the GMB, which represents more than 500,00 public sector workers, said the Tories’ decade of austerity from 2010 scarred the country and stagnated the economy, adding: “The British people are being used as lab rats in a terrible Tory economic experiment.”
The TUC, whose 48 member unions represent 5.5 million workers, was equally outraged, warning that if Hunt’s approach took “an axe to vital services”, he would do as much harm to the UK as the widely derided chancellor he had replaced.
And Unison, which has 1.4 million members, called for an early election on the back of Hunt’s comments, stating it was “horrified that this is the government’s response to a crisis made in Downing Street”.
Appearing on Sky News in his first interview as chancellor, Hunt warned that “all government departments are going to have to find more efficiencies than they were planning”.
Even among his own party, the chancellor’s direction is likely to face significant opposition. Senior Tories were already cautioning that Hunt would struggle to secure enough parliamentary support for effective cuts to welfare, health or education.
The chancellor, they warn, will face as much opposition as Kwarteng would have done should he attempt to push through significant austerity measures.
Many MPs, including several in “red wall” seats in the Midlands and the north, are vowing to battle any attemptto cut promised infrastructure spending that is included in Hunt’s plans.
It means that while his pledge to reduce spending may appease the febrile markets, Hunt faces significant parliamentary barriers to implementing his medium-term fiscal plan, due to be unveiled at the end of the month.
“The difficulty he’s going to have is the same reason Truss said what she said on spending – she knew she couldn’t get it through the house,” said one senior MP. “I don’t think he’s any different in that respect. Who is going to vote for welfare cuts?”
Hunt’s cuts will arrive against a backdrop of soaring inflation and the cost of living crisis.