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Arlene Foster joins her Scottish and Welsh counterparts to warn Treasury that austerity measures going too far

By Nevin Farrell

Published 24/08/2015

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

Finance Minister Arlene Foster has joined forces with her counterparts in Scotland and Wales to warn that UK Government spending cuts are moving "too fast and too far".

A joint statement raises concerns that continuing austerity measures pose a risk to public services.

In a letter to the Treasury, the ministers call for a meeting ahead of the forthcoming spending review. The Treasury said it would continue to engage with the devolved administrations in the lead-up to the review.

The joint statement on spending has been issued by Arlene Foster, Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Jane Hutt of the Welsh government.

The ministers believe last month's budget included elements affecting them for which there was no consultation.

These include car tax, road funding and a levy on big business to pay for apprenticeships.

The letter to the chief secretary to the Treasury, Greg Hands, states: "The three devolved administrations share the view that the UK Government's ongoing austerity plans, reflected in both the in-year spending reductions announced on June 4 and in the summer Budget, continue to reduce public spending in the UK too fast and too far, and present unnecessary risks to our public services.

"We also share the view that the UK Government's plans were developed and communicated in an unsatisfactory way, with neither advance notice nor apparent consideration of the implications for the devolved administrations."

They also raise concerns about the timing of the spending review expected in the autumn.

Mr Swinney added: "The UK Government's broken austerity programme is reducing household income, damaging economic confidence and weakening public finances. That represents a clear threat to our public services."

A Treasury spokeswoman said Mr Hands met regularly with the finance ministers of the devolved administrations. She added: "The Government's long-term economic plan is working: Britain was the fastest growing economy in the G7 in 2014 and 2015 and the deficit has been more than halved.

"However it is still too high - at just under 5%, it is one of the highest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) - and it is no surprise to anyone that the Government has clear plans to deal with it.

"The spending review will set out the savings needed for the country to live within its means."

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