British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said yesterday that all Britons should be prepared to make sacrifices to help shrink the nation’s debts, as he prepared to defend his faltering austerity plan in the coming days.
Osborne is due to present his Autumn statement on Wednesday — the half-yearly budget update in which he may face the tough choice of either announcing more cuts or delaying his debt target.
He is expected to defend his stringent economic policies as the only credible way of solving the government’s biggest political problem — its failure to deliver a strong recovery.
Writing in the Sun on Sunday newspaper, Osborne said all sectors of society needed to accept cuts or higher taxes.
“Everyone must make a contribution to dealing with our debts, from the richest in our society to those living a life on benefits,” he said.
“We are hunting down those who evade tax wherever they try to hide. But we understand that fairness isn’t just about taxing the rich. It’s also about ending the something-for-nothing benefits culture,” he said.
British media reported yesterday that Osborne was poised to announce plans to cap the pension benefits of high earners alongside reining in the welfare budget.
The Treasury declined to comment on the reports.
Other measures likely to be announced include moves to boost Britain’s fledgling shale gas industry, newspapers said.
Slow growth over the past two years means it will take at least two years longer than originally planned for Osborne to meet one of his debt-reduction goals, removing Britain’s underlying budget deficit.
However, in his article, the chancellor expressed a firm commitment to his economic policies.
“Britain is on the right track and turning back now would be a disaster,” he said, citing low interest rates and the creation of 1 million private-sector jobs as examples of the success of the government’s strategy.
The failure of the government to nurse the economy back to strong growth after the financial crisis has fueled attacks from the Labour party, which polls show would regain power if an election were held.