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Emergency services austerity measures set to continue

29 June 2017

THE GOVERNMENT has defeated a proposed amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which would have ended pay freezes and austerity measures for police, firefighters and other public sector workers.

Only days after the Conservatives had agreed a confidence and supply deal with DUP in order to give them a working majority in the House of Commons, Labour tabled the amendment to test the strength of the relationship. The government won the vote by 323 votes to 309, a majority of 14, which will come as a huge relief to Prime Minister Theresa May who would almost certainly have faced a vote of no confidence had the government lost. A vote will take place today to ratify the Queen’s speech, which listed the government’s agenda for the next two years.

Labour’s amendment to the speech demanded an end to funding cuts in the police and emergency services and a removal of the 1% pay increase cap that has been placed on workers in the sector since 2013.

National media have reported that three senior cabinet ministers and influential backbencher Oliver Letwin revealed that austerity measures may be lifted in the Autumn budget. But a spokesperson for the prime minister refused to confirm the reports.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of failing to properly find the emergency services, he said: “Our emergency service workers make us proud at the worst of times for our country, such as the Grenfell Tower Fire and the recent terrorist attacks, and deserve the pay rise they have been denied for seven years.

An editorial in the London Evening Standard, which he edits, former chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne urged the government to stick to its austerity plans. He said: “Talk of 'an end to austerity' is code for 'we're going to allow the deficit to rise, and we don't care'. That would risk repeating the mistakes of the past that led Britain to the point where there was, in the words of that Treasury letter, 'no money left'."