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The Budget McDonnell: ‘Hammond must put an end to austerity’

CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond must loosen the purse strings by pledging to end austerity in his spring statement today, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said today.

Mr Hammond has warned that he would not relax his tight grip on the public finances despite seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” for the economy after years of spending cuts.

He claims that Britain’s debt was too high and has to be reduced still further. 

But struggling councils are desperately calling on the government to boost their funding. Tory leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodges, warned earlier this month that his local authority faces “the most difficult financial crisis in our history.”

Mr Hodges, whose council covers Mr Hammond’s constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge, also urged the government not to “stand idly by while Rome burns.”

Mr McDonnell said: “Our public services are at breaking point and many of our local councils are near bankruptcy.

“He needs to listen to the calls from across the political spectrum, including the Tory council leader in his own constituency, to end the financial crisis in our public sector.

“Philip Hammond must use today to act and end austerity. Our country cannot afford for him to continue to ignore the problems facing working households in our country.

“If his statement is one of boastful self-praise and not a recognition of the devastation faced by many in our country, then he will have failed.”

Speaking on the BBC1 TV Andrew Marr Show on yesterday, the Chancellor pegged national debt at £1.8 trillion, which he said was 86.5 per cent of GDP.

He denied that austerity was an “ideological issue” and said that he would take a “flexible” approach to avoid debt going over 100 per cent of GDP in the event of future “shocks” to the economy.

He has claimed that his statement will leave spending unchanged.

However, the TUC called on him to invest in public services and public-sector pay now, rather than waiting until the Budget in the autumn.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers are standing by while wages fall and services like schools and hospitals are starved of cash.

“And low investment has left many communities without the modern infrastructure they need to attract new businesses and create better-quality jobs.

“We need urgent action to strengthen the economy and get wages rising. He must boost public-sector pay and invest in our schools and hospitals.

“And he should set up a national investment bank to bring opportunities to parts of Britain where good jobs are in short supply.”

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