The UK cannot keep spending and spending

Morning View
Morning View

The prime minister yesterday rejected calls for an end to public sector pay restraint.

Theresa May’s commitment to the ongoing limits in Prime Minister’s Questions was significant because it was clear that Conservative MPs were split on the matter even before a minister admitted that the Cabinet does not agree on pay.

The prime minister is a shadow of her former self, having been battered by recent events. A team of ministers that was once deferential to her power, and what seemed to be her likely continuance at the helm of the country for years to come, is now much less so. Some ministers are almost openly jostling for positions.

In these circumstances, Mrs May could do the easy thing and simply jettison restraint in this and other areas.

But if she does that the public finances will further decline.

The UK is already one of the most indebted nations in the world and that debt is getting ever higher. Tens of billions of pounds a year is spent merely paying interest on that debt.

Almost everyone agrees that magnificent work is done day and daily by millions of public workers across the UK.

On the page opposite we carry a letter from a firefighter. The Grenfell horror was a reminder of the heroism of those who put their lives at risk to put out fires.

The country is indebted to them, as it is to teachers, police officers, doctors, nurses, soldiers and many other types of public servants in a range of areas of public life.

But already the government has agreed to keep the expensive triple lock and winter fuel payments (at the behest of the DUP and some voices in the Tory party). It is maintaining the foreign aid budget.

The election result meant that the vast cost of social care in a time of rising life expectancy is unlikely now to be reformed.

This cannot go on – huge and in some cases rising expenditure in a range of government departments – without serious damage to Britain’s economy in the years to come.