Starmer vows ‘no return to austerity’ under Labour but refuses to rule out cuts to public services

10 June 2024, 14:13 | Updated: 10 June 2024, 14:32

Keir Starmer has said Labour would not return to austerity.
Keir Starmer has said Labour would not return to austerity. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Keir Starmer has vowed Labour will not return to austerity if elected, but said the party would have to make “tough decisions” about public services.

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The Labour leader told LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty that his party would not return to austerity, as he said he knows the “devastating impact” it has had in past years.

Asked if he could say concretely there would be no cuts to public services under a Labour government, Sir Keir said: “I can say no return to austerity. We will have to make tough decisions.

“I ran a public service for five years. I ran the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and that was through some of the austerity years, so I know what that does.

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“I absolutely fundamentally believe in public services, I spent five years of my life devoted to public services.”

Pressed further on what cuts to public services would look like, given his refusal to rule them out, he continued: “Yeah, no austerity. I went through it running in a public service. I know what it feels like. I know the impact, the devastating impact it had and has had and continues to have.

“So we're not returning to austerity. We will have to make tough decisions. Look, I believe in public services, I want them properly, run and properly funded under a Labour government.

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Keir Starmer has told LBC that Labour would not return to austerity if elected.
Keir Starmer has told LBC that Labour would not return to austerity if elected. Picture: Alamy

“You can put more money in the top and get a slightly better product but you only get a materially better product if you reform. That was what we did when I was running part of the criminal justice system.

“I want the NHS not just back on its feet but actually fit for the future.”

Sir Keir previously said that the first move under a Labour government would be to get the NHS “back on its feet”.

The Labour leader said his government, if elected, would primarily focus on reducing treatment backlogs, which currently stand at 7.54 million.

The party has warned the backlog could soar above 10 million if the Conservatives are elected into office again.

Sir Keir said one of his government's first steps would be to create an additional 40,000 appointments, scans and operations each week during evenings and weekends.

It comes after thinktank The Resolution Foundation warned last week that the UK’s next government would need to fill a shortfall of up to £33bn in the public finances otherwise it faces another round of austerity measures.

It comes after a row between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir over taxes.
It comes after a row between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir over taxes. Picture: Alamy

Last month, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves ruled out increases to income tax or national insurance, if Labour is elected.

She said: “I don’t want to make any cuts to public spending which is why we’ve announced the immediate injection of cash into public services."

After being pressed repeatedly on her tax plans, Ms Reeves said: “What I want and Keir wants is taxes on working people to be lower and we certainly won’t be increasing income tax or national insurance if we win at the election.”

The Conservatives have said that, if elected, they would not increase the number of council tax bands, re-evaluate council tax revaluation or cut council tax discounts.

They said they would keep private residence relief, so people do not pay capital gains tax on their main home when they sell it.

They also said they would not increase the rate or level of stamp duty, in a show of support for homeowners.

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