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15 July 2024

Unhappy New Year ahead for many: British media


The British press predicted the New Year will be a struggle for many as deep cuts in public spending bite and rises in sales tax and fuel prices hit consumers.

The Daily Mail said 2011 would be "the toughest year for the middle class since 1982" as a result of the value-added tax rise from 17.5 percent to 20 percent, falling house prices and changes to the child welfare system.

Like the Mail, the Daily Telegraph focused on the financial pain in store for "squeezed" middle-class" families, calculating that they will be 3,000 pounds (4,700 dollars, 3,500 euros) on average worse off in 2011.

Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government has imposed sweeping cuts in a bid to reduce a deficit of around 150 billion pounds (174 billion euros, 231 billion dollars), but union leaders have warned of a furious backlash and have threatened mass strike action.

A sombre editorial in The Times warned: "This will be the year when spending cuts pass from being an abstraction to being a reality.

"So far, the debate has largely been in anticipation of imminent pain.

"Programmes that existed last year will not be renewed this year. Public servants who came to work in 2010 will no longer have jobs."

Stephen Bubb, the chief executive of Acevo, which represents 2,000 charity leaders in Britain, warned that cuts to local government grants could force thousands of charities to close or sharply curtail their services.

He argued that bankers' bonuses should be taxed with the proceeds given directly to local charities to prevent a "tsunami" of cuts in services for the most vulnerable in society.

"If some local councils continue with this Neanderthal approach to cuts, we will be setting a time bomb of social need, which first the most vulnerable in society and then ultimately taxpayers will pay for," he told The Times.

In his New Year message released Friday, Cameron insisted the government was taking the painful but necessary steps which the economy needed, and predicted that 2011 would be the year "that Britain gets back on her feet".