Saturday 19 January 2019
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Government to protect elderly care budget from cuts

The coalition government will protect funds for elderly care from its austerity drive, a Treasury official said Saturday.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration will on Wednesday detail cuts to departmental budgets in a four-year spending review, fleshing out its plan to slash a record budget deficit by 2015.

The move to safeguard about 15 billion pounds spent on social care is intended to reinforce the coalition's promise to protect the vulnerable, given that welfare spending is expected to be heavily cut.

The decision may also ease tensions among some Lib Dems who are worried that their voice is not being heard in a Conservative-led government that relies on their support.

"On Wednesday, we will announce that there will be enough money for local authorities to protect social care services too," the official, who requested anonymity, said.

The government will make up for cuts to regional authority budgets -- which cover areas such as social services and refuse disposal -- with extra cash and help from the national health service to be spent on elderly care.

The coalition has protected health and international aid from its deficit reduction plan, leaving other departments facing cuts of around 25 percent. Schools budgets could also be safeguarded in the cull of 83 billion pounds from government spending by 2015.

Using funds from health spending to fill holes in local services budgets may put hospitals under strain after years of above-inflation funding increases.

However, the extra cash is meant to improve care in the home for the old to ease the burden on hospitals and residential homes, as Britain attempts to cope with the demands of an ageing population.

Analysts say Wednesday's spending review could seal the fate of the coalition -- an unusual marriage of convenience in British politics -- as well as the economy, which is still fragile after an 18-month recovery.

The Labour opposition, in power for 13 years before the May election, argues the coalition's deficit plan is unnecessarily harsh and could tip Britain back into recession.

The coalition says tough action is necessary to restore investor confidence in Britain and protect a triple-A credit rating that helps keep borrowing costs low.

Source Reuters