BORIS Johnson told MPs there would be no public sector pay freezes yesterday – but tax hikes are still feared in the coronavirus fallout.
The PM spoke to about 125 members of the 1922 Comittee and declared there would not be a return to austerity to cover the costs of the £300billion pandemic.
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The Telegraph reports he said “absolutely not – anyone who suggests that can sit on it” when asked if NHS workers would face a pay freeze.
Talking to the backbench MPs he reportedly also hinted at longer-term reform of how Public Health England (PHE) is run.
And he suggested a huge focus would be put on developing the Northern Powerhouse Rail to ensure the economy gets going again.
He said he did not intended to go back to austerity, adding: “We are going to make sure we level up right across the country and keep faith with the people who voted for us.”
Leaked Treasury documents revealed that an end to the triple lock on state pensions and a two-year freeze on pay for nurses, teachers and police were part of a menu of options the Chancellor is looking at to balance the books.
But yesterday the PM seemed to confirm a pay freeze was not the way to go, however remained tight-lipped about tax rises.
He reportedly said the Chancellor is looking at “innovative” solutions, with one MP saying “they are looking at liberalising the tax regime rather than tightening it”.
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The PM appeared to hammer home the message he wants to look after poorer Brits hit hard by the pandemic, and adopt a careful approach to defeating the virus.
He said: “We mustn’t let the mugger get back off the floor, and we’re going to play Whack-a-Mole across the country wherever coronavirus flares up.”
Last month during a press conference he said he didn’t plan to bring back austerity measures, saying: “I think that this government will want to encourage that bounce back in all kinds of ways – but I’ve never particularly liked the term [austerity] that you’ve just used to describe government economic policy, and it’s certainly not going to be part of our approach.”
Coronavirus deaths in the UK rose to 33,998 yesterday after 384 more people died – but the weekly death toll is the lowest since the end of March.
In the past week, a total of 2,757 people died in care homes and hospitals across the UK, figures from the Department of Health show.
As numbers slowly fall, Mr Johnson said yesterday: “We mustn’t let the mugger get back off the floor, and we’re going to play Whack-a-Mole across the country wherever coronavirus flares up.”
Britain’s economy shrunk by two per cent in the last three months overall, and plunged by 5.8 per cent in March in the fastest monthly slump on record.
In the next three months, the UK is set to go into another recession, partly thanks to the impact of the virus.
Mr Sunak has said it is “very likely” that the UK will face a “significant recession” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.