Chancellor George Osborne announced a £2bn boost to NHS spending yesterday, ahead of formal plans which will be set out in the Autumn Statement. However, Labour hit back almost immediately, arguing that the extra cash is nowhere near enough to plug a hole in the healthcare budget.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday the chancellor said the money was a “down payment” following calls from NHS bosses to pump an extra £8bn into the service by 2020. £1.3bn of the planned spend is new money, paid for by cutbacks in other government departments, with £700m coming from reallocated health spending already sitting in Department of Health coffers.
Osborne offered up an additional boost by pledging to spend the £1.1bn fines recouped by the Treasury following the foreign exchange rate manipulation scandal to pay for improvements in GP surgeries over the next parliament.
“Because we have a strong economy and we’ve got the public finances under control, we can afford to put £2bn into the frontline of the NHS across the United Kingdom. This is a down-payment on the NHS’s own long-term plan and it shows you can have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy,” Osborne told the BBC yesterday.
Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls hit back, pledging to match the chancellor’s spending commitment and put an additional £2.5bn into the NHS if his party is elected next year, paid for by a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m.
The NHS has long been a battleground between the two main parties, but the argument over where much-needed extra cash will come from has been hotting up ahead of the Autumn Statement. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats had called on Osborne to promise an extra £1bn for the service, a target which he says he has met and doubled. More detail on how the plans will work will be set out this week.