Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown Pledges to Spend Billions More on Schools and Hospitals

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown Pledges to Spend Billions More on Schools and Hospitals

Article excerpt


GORDON BROWN will today promise to spend more billions on key public services in a bid to woo a restive Labour Party and boost his own already high popularity ratings.

In his first substantial look ahead to next year's government spending round, the Chancellor will promise to "lock in" the extra money already committed to the health service, schools and other targets.

But his keynote speech to the conference will go further.

The text declares that, provided the Government can stick to the path of reform, "the next spending round will not only lock in the higher spending we have been delivering but go further, with further increases in spending and investment for our priorities in the years to come".

The Chancellor insists that there must be "reform before resources" and steers clear of hard figures. But his pledge none the less marks a major new gamble which could eventually pave the way to hefty tax rises. Voices in the City and elsewhere have already warned that Mr Brown is losing his reputation for prudence and risking severe problems on spending plans already announced.

They say that Treasury forecasts of continuing and strong economic growth are too rosy and that, if they are not met, either spending will have to be slashed or borrowing and taxes will have to climb.

The speech was being watched with even more than usual care by those in the Labour Party, and beyond, looking to a possible Brown leadership in the years ahead.

And, in another apparent attempt to win friends in the party, the Chancellor was also reported to have lined up alongside the unions in a sharp behind-thescenes Cabinet row. The row centred on demands by the unions to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, fearful for their pay and conditions when work is contracted out to private companies.

Health Secretary John Reid was said to have resisted any deal to end the socalled "two tier" workforce, arguing that to compel private companies to give extra rights to their workforce would put them off playing their part in modernising the health service. But Mr Brown, significantly, was said to have given his broad support to the deal.

Today saw an outcry from the unions after the no two-tier-service pledge was put on hold. Dave Prentis, boss of the public service union Unison, said that the Government had "broken a pledge" to stop private companies from watering down the pay and conditions of staff inherited from the public sector. But Mr Reid said he was not prepared to "stitch up some tawdry deal three days before conference".

The union's fury was set to surface later today in mass demonstrations around the Conference Hall as Mr Brown delivered his speech.

In yet another sweetener for the rank and file, the Chancellor was expected to hold out the prospect of a rise in the minimum wage to well above the [pounds sterling]5 in two year's time. …

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