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Jeremy Hunt defends civil service job cuts to increase defence spending

  • By Eleanor Montague and Sam Francis
  • BBC News, in kyiv and London

Legend, Chancellor said cutting services would cost ‘far less’ than allowing Putin to succeed in Ukraine

Jeremy Hunt has defended his plan to cut civil service jobs to increase defense spending and aid to Ukraine, during a surprise trip to kyiv.

The chancellor said cutting public services would cost “much less” than allowing Russia to succeed.

Mr Hunt confirmed the increase will cost an extra £20 billion, which unions say will be funded by the loss of 70,000 jobs.

Downing Street said the plans would be funded by existing commitments to reduce civil service numbers to pre-Covid levels and by giving the Ministry of Defense (MoD) a share of an already announced increase in government spending of research.

The Public and Commercial Services Union said cutting civil servant jobs to fund higher defense spending would lead to longer waiting lists for new passports, driving tests and driver’s licenses.

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that the UK would provide an additional £500 million to Ukraine this year, on top of the £2.5 billion already allocated.

Mr Sunak added that the UK could continue to provide “at least the current level of military support to Ukraine for each year that it is required”.

Speaking in kyiv after a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Hunt said he hoped the increased funding would be “a turning point in this war”.

“We think other European countries will follow us and that will send a message to Putin that he will not succeed,” Mr Hunt said.

The “UK has a special role” in supporting the war effort in Ukraine, because “we have the largest defense budget in Europe”, he added.

“I am here because if we want to restore peace in Europe, we must make sure that Putin does not succeed in his nasty war of aggression right here in Ukraine,” he said.

Image source, Getty Images

Regarding cutting the civil service to fund defense spending and aid to Ukraine, he said: “It’s a choice, but the choice we make is to invest in European security and defense .

“And if we stop Putin from doing what he’s trying to do in Ukraine, it will ultimately cost us a lot less.

“I think it is reasonable to reduce the civil service to the size it was pre-Covid, and I am confident we can achieve this through more efficient delivery of public services.”

Mr Hunt confirmed that spending, which will increase gradually over the next six years, would be £20 billion more than if spending remained at its current level of 2.3% of GDP.

The additional funding will also help fund Ministry of Defense programs already underway, such as the order of new naval frigates, the development of a new combat aircraft and the modernization of Britain’s nuclear weapons systems.

These programs are proving very expensive and the Department of Defense is struggling to make ends meet with its existing resources.

Labour’s shadow defense secretary John Healey said on Tuesday his party “wants to see a fully funded plan” to reach that level.

But the Conservatives have “shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted when it comes to defense,” he added.

He said Labor would review resources for the armed forces within a year of taking office, if it wins the general election later this year.

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