HS2 on block as Jeremy Hunt seeks to squeeze public spending

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Jeremy Hunt, UK chancellor, has warned Tory activists tax cuts have to be funded by a squeeze on public spending, as he prepares to swing the axe over the HS2 excessive pace rail venture and the civil service.

Treasury officers refused to disclaim that Hunt had signed off plans to scrap the northern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester to launch financial savings for different transport initiatives.

“A choice will probably be introduced in the end,” one aide to Hunt stated, amid rising hypothesis on the Conservative get together convention in Manchester that the axe will fall on the venture earlier than Sunak makes his keynote speech on Wednesday.

Hunt additionally advised the convention he would save £1bn by freezing civil service numbers, with an eventual plan to chop 66,000 posts and scale back the general public sector workforce to pre-pandemic ranges.

Downing Road stated no emergency cupboard assembly to log out the HS2 determination was deliberate “in the intervening time”. A spokesman for Sunak stated: “No ultimate selections have been taken on part 2 of HS2.”

Tory officers consider that the choice to reduce Britain’s largest transport venture may very well be introduced on Tuesday, permitting Sunak to announce “excellent news” about different transport schemes.

In a bullish speech, Hunt stated: “It’s time to roll up our sleeves, tackle the declinists and watch the British financial system show the doubters incorrect.”

Nevertheless 4 former prime ministers have already warned that if Sunak scraps the northern leg of HS2 — and probably terminates the route at Previous Oak Widespread, six miles from central London — he’ll gasoline a declinist narrative.

Boris Johnson, former prime minister, stated of the plan to cease the road in Birmingham. “We have to be out of our minds.” Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa Might have additionally referred to as for the road to be inbuilt full.

Whereas ministers wait to log out the HS2 plan, Hunt advised the Conservative get together convention he would freeze recruitment to the civil service, which he stated was “the very best on this planet”.

Hunt’s plan is to cap the whole variety of civil servants at their present degree of 457,000 till 2025. His allies stated that on present projections whole numbers would have elevated by about 40,000.

They stated this may save £1bn, whereas authorities departments could be advised to attract up plans to chop the civil service to pro-Covid ranges of underneath 400,000 by 2028.

Hunt stated: “Even after the pandemic is over we’ve got 66,000 extra civil servants than earlier than.”

However Mark Serwotka, normal secretary of the Public and Industrial Providers union, stated shrinking “an already overstretched and under-resourced” civil service would inevitably end in cuts to very important providers.

“If ministers need fast-moving border controls at our ports and airports, an finish to backlogs for these searching for driving licences or making use of for driving assessments, they have to make use of extra civil servants, not much less,” Serwotka added. 

The Tory get together convention has been dominated by a clamour from senior Tories, together with some ministers, for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and Hunt to chop taxes earlier than the subsequent normal election, anticipated in 2024.

However the chancellor sought to shift the talk to pay and advantages, telling activists tax cuts might solely come as soon as the general public sector was made extra environment friendly and spending is underneath management.

Hunt added that preventing inflation — reasonably than tax cuts — was his high precedence, telling the convention: “Nothing hurts households extra.”

He insisted that battle was being received: “The plan is working and now we should see it by means of, simply as Margaret Thatcher did a few years in the past.”

Hunt confirmed the federal government would increase the nationwide residing wage from £10.42 an hour to a minimum of £11 an hour, which he described as “a pay rise for almost 2mn employees”.

He additionally stated the federal government would take steps to make sure that individuals actively regarded for work. “It isn’t honest that somebody who “refuses” to search for a job “will get the identical as somebody attempting their greatest”, he stated.


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