Theresa May's top ministers crank up pressure to ease austerity

British prime minister Theresa May, left
Arj Singh

THERESA May and Philip Hammond are facing Cabinet pressure to ease up on austerity, with ministers suggesting the issues of public sector pay, schools funding and university tuition fees should be considered.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, right, urged the Prime Minister and Chancellor to listen to independent bodies that review public sector pay, after a week in which Labour attacked a government “shambles” for initially raising, then playing down hopes that the cap could be lifted.

Mr Gove's intervention ties in with reports that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to

demand a wage boost for NHS workers.

It comes with the Government under pressure after losing its House of Commons majority in the general election as Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity Labour outperformed expectations.

According to The Observer, Mr Hunt is to demand an end to the 1% pay cap for nurses and other health workers, citing evidence from the Government's own NHS pay review body published in March.

It appears he has the backing of Mr Gove, who told The Sunday Times: “You've got to listen to the public sector pay review bodies.

“When they made recommendations on school teachers' pay I think I always accepted them.

“My colleagues who deal with these pay review bodies would want to respect the integrity of that process.”

According to The Sunday Telegraph, a separate front has opened up with Education Secretary Justine Greening demanding an extra £1 billion to protect schools funding per pupil and will demand a statement in weeks.

A Number 10 source said the Government was responding to the recommendations of public sector pay review bodies which are currently reporting to ministers “on a case-by-case basis”.

The source said the pay cap was brought in to “deal with the mess we inherited from Labour” and acknowledged the “hard work and sacrifice” made by public sector workers, saying jobs had been protected and the deficit reduced by three quarters.

“While we understand the sacrifice that has been made, we must also ensure we continue to protect jobs and deal with our debts,” the source added.

They also made clear there are no moves to change tuition fee policy after Mrs May's most senior minister, Damian Green, said Britain may need to have a national debate on the issue.

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