Labour admits it cannot increase NHS funding

Labour has admitted that it cannot commit to increased funding for the National Health Service after 2011, in a move the Tories claim is an embarrassing reversal of their policy.

It comes as ministers also revealed that Labour will have to raise taxes and cut capital spending on major projects if it wins the next election. Capital spending projects will bear the brunt of cuts.

Labour and the Conservatives are locked in a bitter battle over spending plans.

The Tories seized on comments made by Andy Burnham, the new Health Secretary, in which he said Labour would continue to maintain NHS spending in the period after the current Budget period, up to 2011.

At the NHS Confederation annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Burnham admitted: “I can’t write the spending review – it would be ridiculous. We have stability for two years but the Prime Minister indicated the NHS will remain the priority for a Labour Government.”

The Tories said this contradicted what he had previously said and it should “worry NHS patients and staff.”

Labour also had to admit that taxes were likely to increase in try and fend off other cuts.

Liam Byrne, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Alistair Darling has been really clear that there are going to be some pretty tough choices to be made. There are going to be conditions of constraint and there are going to be difficult decisions on, for example, tax.”

Gordon Brown has been able to appear as if he is maintaining spending on services but cutting public expenditure by looking to savagely cut planned capital projects. That means transport infrastructure, school and hospital building projects, as well as major defence procurement deals.

The Prime Minister has been reluctant to admit that the Government plans to cut capital spending by almost 40 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

Mr Byrne admitted that capital spending would be reduced.

He said: “Once you have built a school you have got a school.”

Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary, accused My Byrne of being “disingenuous” about public spending. Gordon Brown has, over successive elections, painted the Tories as a party that will cut public services, but David Cameron has made great efforts to blunt that line of attack by promising to match Labour’s commitments.

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, said: “We now see how Labour plans involve spending cuts in a dozen departments next year. But Labour politicians continue to claim that they won’t cut spending.

“That’s just plain dishonest. Why can’t the Prime Minister just be honest with people and admit to the cuts which are in his own Budget?”


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