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Cuts 'poverty threat for millions'

Government spending cuts could push millions more people into poverty over the next two decades, a charity has said.

Oxfam has warned that 800,000 children and 1.9 million adults in the UK are at risk of living in poverty by 2020 if ministers continue to pursue austerity measures.

Across Europe, as many as 25 million more people could no longer have a decent standard of living by 2025, it said.

The charity has now called on governments across the continent to reverse austerity measures which it said had "massively" increased poverty and inequality.

In its report, A Cautionary Tale, Oxfam calculated it could take between 10 to 25 years for poverty to return to pre-2008 levels in Europe.

European nations could struggle to recover in the same way countries in Latin America, South East Asia and Africa suffered following austerity measures throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the charity said. Should the UK follow Bolivia's struggle to recovery, the gap between rich and poor in the UK could become greater than that in South Sudan, Oxfam said.

In 2009, South Sudan had a rating of 45.5 on the Gini index - which measures a country's distribution of income - compared with 56.3 in Bolivia in 2008. The UK is currently measured at around 34, Oxfam said.

"Oxfam can no longer stand by while such poverty and suffering are being created in Europe," the charity's report said. "At best, the countries most affected by austerity will become the most unequal in the Western world. At worst, they will rank amongst the most unequal anywhere in the world."

A Government spokeswoman said: "Our tax and welfare reforms will help improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the universal credit making three million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

"We know that times are tough, and we have already taken action to help families with the cost of living, including cutting income tax for 25 million people, which will save a typical taxpayer over £700, taking 2.7 million out of income tax altogether and freezing council tax for five years, saving a typical household £600."

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