Spending review 2020: Five announcements that drew strong reactions | UK News


Rishi Sunak’s spending review has elicited strong reactions from across the board as the UK struggles with its biggest fall in output for more than 300 years.

looks at five key parts of the announcement and what the reaction has been to them.

Overseas aid budget cut from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income – about £10bn

A controversial move among MPs of all parties, especially as the Conservative manifesto promised to not reduce the foreign aid budget.

Mr Sunak said keeping it at 0.7% is “difficult to justify…when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record”.

He added there is the intention to go back to 0.7% when the fiscal climate allows.

The announcement led to the resignation of Foreign Office minister Baroness Sugg, who said it was “fundamentally wrong”.

The change moves the UK from the number one foreign aid contributor per GDP to the second – something met with disdain by the world’s leading aid agencies.

Save the Children’s chief executive, Kevin Watkins, said the chancellor had “broken a promise to the world’s poorest people and broken Britain’s reputation for leadership on the world stage”.

Oxfam’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, said the move “will lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths”.

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Foreign aid cut for ‘UK jobs and services’

In reference to Boris Johnson’s recent defence spending increase, he said: “It’s a false economy which diverts money from clean water and medicines to pay for bombs and bullets.”

Former prime ministers Sir John Major, David Cameron and Tony Blair, and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai had urged the government to not cut the foreign aid budget ahead of the spending review

Public sector pay freeze (apart from NHS workers)

The GMB union has criticised the government’s plan to “pause” public sector pay.

Nurses, doctors and others in the NHS will get a pay rise but other public sector workers will not.

That includes firefighters, teachers, the armed forces, police, civil servants, council and government agency staff.

The lowest paid public sector staff earning below £24,000 will get an increase of at least £250.

Nurses were left out of a pay rise for 900,000 public sector workers in July
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Nurses have been given a pay rise now, but said they would oppose the freeze for social care workers

The Royal College of Nursing has said its members will oppose plans to freeze the pay “of equally skilled professionals” working in the social care sector.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said this will hit key workers “who have risked everything during the pandemic”.

This will put the chancellor “on a direct collision course” with public service workers, she added.

£4bn “levelling up” fund for England to finance local infrastructure projects

Communities will be able to bid for cash for projects such as a new bypass, a museum or railway station upgrades.

The caveats were that they must have “real impact”, be delivered within this parliament term and have local support, including from the local MP.

This last point was jumped on by shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds who said the fact MPs had to be involved meant it would not be community driven.

Passengers wearing face masks at Waterloo station in London as face coverings become mandatory on public transport in England 15/6/2020
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Councils will be able to bid for infrastructure funding

“So much for taking back control, this is about the centre handing over support in a very top-down manner,” she said.

Questions have been raised over whether this would mean Conservative MPs would be favoured over their Labour counterparts.

Councils to have access to extra £1bn for social care in 2021

The chancellor said this will allow councils to increase core spending by 4.5% and will give them extra flexibility to increase council tax and social care precepts.

It means councils will be able to increase council tax bills by 2% without needing a referendum.

But Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and co-chair of the CSA (Care and Support Alliance), said the funding was “insufficient” to safeguard current levels of services into next year.

She said it is “hard not to conclude we’ve gone backwards”.

“Local authorities are once again being asked to square an impossible circle and this ungenerous settlement does very little to help the NHS either,” she said.

“However, it’s older and disabled people, and their families and carers, who will as ever pay the biggest price, with more likely to have to manage without the support they need.

“This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially after everything social care has been through this year.”

Business reacts to spending review – “waste no time”

Industry leaders said the chancellor had taken “bold” decisions” in the spending review, mentioning long-term innovation funding, a plan for creating jobs and a new National Infrastructure Bank.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of Business Industry, said the stark forecasts pointed to “tough times ahead”.

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 24: A commercial 'To Let' sign is posted outside the Jo Malone and Links of London stores on Richmond High Street on September 24, 2020 in London, . According to figures released in August from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated trends that were already seeing the retail business declining. With office workers being encouraged to work from home and many consumers moving their shopping habits online, retail outlets have been closing for good across the country throughout the period of lockdown that began in March and beyond. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
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High streets have been hit hard during the pandemic

He praised the chancellor for laying “the foundations for a brighter economic future”.

But, he said “ambition must be matched by action on the ground” and there “can be no let-up in the support for firms facing new COVID restrictions”.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, also said the government “must waste no time in putting these plans into action”.



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