In Depth

Labour sets outs ‘emergency budget’ for public services

John McDonnell pledges to spend an extra £17bn a year on the NHS, social care, schools and local government

Labour’s shadow chancellor has called for an end to austerity and an “emergency budget for public services” in a speech laying out the party’s economic platform ahead of the Budget next week.

 John McDonnell said Chancellor Philip Hammond was out of touch with the lives of ordinary people who are increasingly angry after seven years of cuts.

“They were told austerity was the solution to the economic crisis,” he said. “So it’s understandable that after seven years of the austerity solution, they are angry when they queue for hours at A&E, see their school laying off teaching assistants, their Surestart centre closing and the local neighbourhood police withdrawn from their streets.”

Promising to spend an extra £17bn a year on the NHS, social care, schools and local government, McDonnell sought to paint the Tories as the party of tax avoidance by citing the recent Paradise Papers revelations.

He said extra spending under Labour would be paid for by tax rises for companies and “the rich”, which led to accusations Labour “would have to drive up Britain’s debts to balance the books”, says the London Evening Standard.

A week before the budget, McDonnell “wants to create a clear red line between him and the present incumbent of Number 11”, says the BBC’s Kamal Ahmed.

McDonnell has said he’s willing to borrow more to invest in infrastructure, arguing it’s a good time to do so as interest rates are at historic lows. The Conservatives claim more borrowing would lead to more debt, higher taxes and fewer jobs.

Austerity linked to 120,000 deaths

The shadow chancellor’s call for an end to public sector cuts carries added resonance after a study by UCL and Cambridge University academics linked austerity policies to more than 120,000 deaths over the past seven and half years.

Real-term funding for health and social care has fallen dramatically since David Cameron came to power in 2010. The researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths. They specifically highlighted the sharp increase in mortality after 2010, compared with the steady decline from 2001 to 2010.

The paper, published by BMJ Open, says there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years after cuts began than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-2010 levels.

Based on those trends it predicted 152,141 extra deaths between 2015 and 2020 – 100 a day – which one of the authors likened to “economic murder”.

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