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British chancellor announces fresh austerity measures

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Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne says the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 7.2 percent from 2008 to 2009, adding that the drop wiped £112 billion off the UK’s economy.

Making his Autumn Statement before lawmakers at the House of Commons, Osborne stressed that the country could not stop fighting for its recovery as a reassessment by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the 2008-09 recession had been worse than thought — with £112 billion wiped off the British economy.

The chancellor also announced another £3 billion of public spending cuts as he warned that the job of clearing the nation’s deficit is far from finished.

Some of his cabinet colleagues were angered by Osborne, who ordered them to find a new round of savings totaling £1 billion a year over the next three years to help him balance his books.

Under state pensions reforms, the age of retirement in Britain will continue to rise to 68 by the 2030s.

Under the plan, aimed at saving up to £400 billion over the next half-century, the state pension age will increase to 68, 69 and 70 by the mid-2030s, the 2040s and the 2060s respectively.

A former Downing Street advisor warned in October that Britain’s pension system is “not fit for the 21st century.”

Ros Altmann, now an independent pensions’ expert, said millions of British workers face poverty in old age, adding that the pension saving system in the country is not fit for the purpose.

However, the chancellor, who was giving his annual budget announcement to the parliament, said the growth forecasts for this year have more than doubled.

Osborne welcomed revised growth figures and said borrowing was down to just £2,500 for every household and that the country’s debt was £18 billion lower than the forecast in March.

He was cautious when welcoming the recovery and warned of “more difficult decisions,” setting the tone for a statement that would contain little respite from the tough austerity measures of previous years.

Reactions to Osborne’s statement were mixed. While small business groups welcomed many of the measures, others said little had been done to help households struggling with debt.

“This is not an economic plan, it’s austerity for austerity’s sake, as the Tories – propped up by the Lib Dems – look to reshape our society for years to come and make the poor, sick and unemployed pay for the greed and recklessness of wealthy elites,” said Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union.


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