» Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Public spending

Asked what prompted the Prime Minister’s change of heart in terms of public spending cuts, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been clear throughout the last couple of months that this was about tough choices on public spending, and that those choices would have to be made in the future.

The Prime Minister had also been consistent about focusing on frontline public services, which he would reiterate today in his speech. The Government was committed to cutting costs and inefficiencies, along with unnecessary programmes and budgets for low-priority areas.

The Prime Minister would also reaffirm today in his speech his commitment to maintaining the vital frontline services that people depended on.

Asked if the Prime Minister acknowledged that some of the borrowing figures the Chancellor set out in the last Budget would be high, the PMS said that at this stage the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were focused on halving the deficit over four years.

Asked what the Prime Minister made of comments made by Mervyn King that we needed a credible plan to stabilise finances, the PMS said that he had not yet seen Mervyn King’s comments and so had nothing to say at this point.

Asked when the Prime Minister had decided to use the word “cuts” in his TUC speech, the PMS said that this was not the momentous occasion that it was being portrayed as; the Prime Minister had set out his thinking around the tough choices that needed to be made over the summer. People would have to wait for the speech this afternoon to see the exact way the Prime Minister would present his views. There was nothing in today’s speech that was different to what the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had been saying about the importance of cutting costs and inefficiencies, and taking out unnecessary programmes.

Put that it was a conscious decision on the Prime Minister’s behalf to use the word “cuts”, the PMS said that this was an important speech and people would have to wait to hear it.

Asked if the Prime Minister regarded using the word “cuts” as a sign of strength or weakness, the PMS said that this was not a matter of either/or; the Prime Minister would set out in a wide-ranging speech at the TUC today his approach to some of the important issues that were facing this country, one of them being the choices that needed to be made on public spending. We needed to think about how we could shift resources, how we could reduce costs, how we sold assets and how to give priority to investments.

Asked what frontline services the Prime Minister felt should be protected, the PMS said people would have to wait for the speech. The Prime Minister had spoken about frontline services before and it was clear the kind of services he felt it necessary to protect. Any of these decisions would need to be made as part of the Pre Budget Report (PBR) and the Budget. It was not the case that the Prime Minister would be saying anything today to pre-empt either.

Asked for details of unnecessary programmes, the PMS said that the specific decisions would be made at the right time.

Put that the right time would be the PBR, the PMS said that there was the PBR and the Budget; we had always said that the PBR was a very important moment in the public spending cycle.

Put that that meant there would not be a general election before the Budget, the PMS said that one shouldn’t necessarily read that into it.

Asked how countries would know when to end the current fiscal stimulus and if the G20 would focus on an exit strategy, the PMS said that both those important points would be discussed at next week’s G20 meeting. The Prime Minister said at Cabinet today that it was very important for the approach towards those matters to be coordinated.

Asked about the spending review, the PMS said that it was a matter for the Chancellor.

Put that the Opposition had said that they would ring fence health from cuts and if that would be referenced in the Prime Minister’s speech today, the PMS said that that was a party political matter and people would have to wait for the speech.

Put that George Osbourne had described the Prime Minister’s use of the word “cuts” as “complete capitulation”, the PMS said that that was a party political question.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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