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Autumn budget: Hunt must find £43bn to keep public services going, TUC warns

Autumn Budget Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, alongside the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, second left, holds his first Cabinet meeting in Downing street in London, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
Prime minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt will present the Autumn budget on 17 November. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP

The Autumn budget needs an additional £43bn just to protect public services like schools and hospitals from inflation.

With inflation at a record high of 10.1%, research by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) published by the TUC revealed that an additional £43bn a year will be needed for next year just to ensure real spending on public services stays at the level set out in the October 2021 spending review.

The union wants chancellor Jeremy Hunt to follow on previous promises from Rishi Sunak that the government will protect services like schools, hospitals, and the police from inflation.

Read more: Bank of England will raise interest rates again, warns chief economist

Just to keep hospitals going without any cuts, the Treasury needs to find £15.7bn. Another £7.1bn for schools and £900m for courts and police.

As COP27 puts climate change on centre stage, environment, food and rural affairs need £400m to support public services that address the issue.

TUC claimed Conservative cuts since 2010 have left public services on the brink of collapse, with staff overwhelmed and “many seeking to quit”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all need functioning, high-quality public services – our NHS, schools, local government and all our public services.

“This has left our services short-staffed and overwhelmed. And now the double whammy of soaring inflation and the Tories’ catastrophic mini-budget has pushed them to the brink.

“We’ve all heard the stories of people waiting too long for ambulances – and sitting on waiting lists for operations for months. We can all see too many schools are crumbling – and local councils are struggling to run basic services.

The TUC said that the number of patients waiting less than the target wait time of 62 days for cancer treatment has fallen from over 85% in 2012 to less than 66% in 2022.

Read more: UK business confidence falls to lockdown levels as recession looms

Since March 2022, average ambulance response times for category two emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes have remained at over double the 18-minute target time.

O’Grady added: “As chancellor, the new prime minister must keep his promise that he will fund ‘world-class public services’. Our NHS, schools and public services must not be collateral damage to the Tories crashing the economy in 2022.

“Great public services improve all our lives. They underpin a growing economy – and a more equal society.”

Hunt is set to role out spending cuts totalling £60bn at the Autumn budget under current plans, including at least £35bn in cuts.

The full budget will be announced on 17 November.

Watch: Autumn budget: How could PM Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reduce '£60bn financial black hole'?