PM’s austerity vow a ‘Conservative con’ if Budget fails to deliver, Corbyn says

Jeremy Corbyn warned Theresa May her claims of ending austerity will be a "great big Conservative con" if she fails to boost public sector spending in the Budget.

The Labour leader pressed the Prime Minister on how she plans to end the funding squeeze on police, the NHS, schools, councils and disabled people following her party conference vow.

But Mrs May claimed Labour's plans would cost people £1 trillion, repeated her pledge on austerity and told MPs: "What is not being brought to an end is fiscal responsibility."

The issue dominated the leaders' exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions and comes ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond's latest Budget on October 29.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn raised cuts to mental health budgets, the police and other areas as he asked when austerity would be over.

He said: "Today there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010. The Prime Minister said last week that austerity is over. When will austerity be over for the mental health services?"

Mrs May responded saying that it was her Government putting "record levels of funding into mental health", adding: "If he's saying to me that we still need to do more in mental health, I say yes, we do.

"That's exactly why we're setting out further steps today to improve the mental health of children and young people."

After further defending the Government's record, Mrs May in response to later questions said: "I've been very clear that there are better times ahead for people, we will see debt falling and we will see support for our public services going up.

"Austerity is being brought to an end. What is not being brought to an end is fiscal responsibility."

Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London (PA)

But Mr Corbyn hit out at "eight years of painful austerity" before adding: "Poverty is up. Homelessness and deaths on our streets is up. Living standards down. Public services slashed. A million elderly are not getting the care they need. Wages have been eroded.

"And all the while, billions were found for tax giveaways for big corporations and the super-rich.

"The Prime Minister declared she is ending austerity. But unless the Budget halts the cuts, increases funding to public services, gives our public servants a decent pay rise, then isn't the claim that austerity is over simply a great big Conservative con?"

Mrs May said wages are increasing, the minimum wage has increased, claimed there are one million fewer people in "absolute poverty" and defended controversial welfare reforms by claiming Universal Credit will ensure one million disabled households get around £110 a month more.

She highlighted income tax cuts, the fuel duty freeze and the energy price cap as helping working people in the UK.

Mrs May concluded: "We know what would really hurt working people – Labour's plans would cost £1 trillion of people's money.

"Uncontrolled borrowing, spiralling taxes, working people paying the price of Labour – yet again, Labour taking us back to square one."

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