Hammond says not deaf to voter weariness on spending cuts

FILE PHOTO: Philip Hammond, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, arrives in Downing Street, in central London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond said he was “not deaf” to signs of weariness among voters about the country’s near decade-long grip on public spending which has come under renewed criticism after a deadly fire in a London tower block.

Asked in an interview with BBC television whether he would push ahead with planned cuts of 3 billion pounds for funding of local authorities, Hammond said he would look again at the government’s proposals in the light of the general election result when he announces his next budget in November.

Hammond said he already had wriggle room in his existing tax and spending plans and stressed he would not abandon the overall thrust of the ruling Conservative Party’s approach to fixing the public finances.

The government is seeking to turn Britain’s budget deficit, which was equivalent to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product in the last financial year, into a surplus by the mid-2020s.

“We will look at all these things. Obviously, we are not deaf. We heard a message last week in the general election. We need to look at how we deal with the challenges that we face in the economy,” Hammond said.

“And I understand that people are weary after years of hard work to rebuild the economy from the great crash of 2008-09 But we have to live within our means. And more borrowing which seems to be Jeremy Corbyn’s answer is not the solution.”

Opposition Labour party leader Corbyn attacked the government’s tight controls on spending ahead of the election which saw Prime Minister Theresa May lose her parliamentary majority.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Guy Faulconbridge