21/06/2012

Senior Civil Servant Says Spending Cuts Could Last A Decade

Britain's most senior civil servant has warned that public spending cuts could last for up to a decade.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, appointed as cabinet secretary by David Cameron last year, said the government was only a quarter of the way through its fiscal consolidation.

He made his remarks at a central London event hosted by the Institute for Government.

In a live feed from the event the IFG tweeted: "Heywood: probably only 25pc through fiscal challenge this country faces."

The Daily Telegraph later reported Heywood as saying: "We are 25% through fiscal adjustment. Spending cuts could last seven, eight, 10 years."

The cabinet secretary's remarks mean that the spending cuts could last until 2020.

George Osborne began to cut public spending soon after taking office in 2010, though the main cuts did not start until the beginning of the following tax year in April 2011.

The IFG event, attended by the cabinet office minister Francis Maude, considered the government's civil service reform plan. The cabinet secretary said that officials understood the need for spending restraint.

"They know that they are part of the economy-wide attempt to get the fiscal deficit down, and where weaknesses have been identified, they have got to be addressed," he said.

The cabinet office played down the significance of Heywood's remarks.

"Jeremy was simply saying that financial pressure would continue into the next parliament," a spokesman told the BBC.

The prediction by Heywood goes slightly further than the government's current plans. In his autumn statement last November the chancellor said that cuts would extend until 2015-16 and 2016-17.

(H)


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