The slashes to the departments’ finances are due in 2015-16, andfollow three years of existing cuts. The news emerged in thefallout from Wednesday’s budget statement, which planned11.5 billion pounds (US$17.5 billion) of further broad-scale cutsfor 2015-16; on Saturday, Alexander told the Telegraph that the MoDand HO would share the weight.An independent auditor warned that the MoD could lose more than1.6 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) from its 32-billion-pound ($48.7billion) budget for 2015-16, according to the newspaper. Thesereductions would almost certainly lead to an accompanying freshround of lay-offs.Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP also warned that no amount ofpublic outrage at the further cuts would influence themeasures.“It has no effect on the decisions I will make, or the view that Iwill take on the right balance. The idea that having a great publiccampaign will influence the outcome, that’s just wrong,” hesaid.Earlier this month, UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond cautionedthat “any further reduction in the defense budget would fall onthe level of activity that we were able to carry out.”Tensions have flared as Conservative politicians, who currentlyhead the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrat party, havevoiced their support for continuing to slash Britain’s welfarebudget, citing small falls in unemployment, instead of continuingto target the defense budget.The group has come to be known as the ‘National Union ofMinisters’, and is led by Home Secretary Theresa May. They demandthat ‘ring-fenced’ spending be ended, which immunizes somedepartments from further cuts. These protected departments includethe NHS and Department for International Development (DFID).Alexander reiterated that the NHS, schools and internationaldevelopment would be ring-fenced when asked whether the Home Officeand Ministry of Defence would be protected from further cuts,adding: “We will work through the details, but every department, includingthe ones you mention, will have to make savings.” On the same day, it was announced that a supposed ‘cost-cutting’NHS scheme to remotely monitor housebound patients will cost threetimes as much as expected. An anonymous Conservative source told the newspaper in Februarythat there was“a real concern that the Lib Dems want to protectthe benefits culture at the expense of our troops.” This January, British PM David Cameron was forced to admit thatmilitary spending would not rise until after 2016, despite previousassertions that no more cuts would be made to MoD.In February, Cameron announced that he would be“very open” to the idea of diverting billions of pounds from the foreign aidbudget (Department for International Development) to themilitary.A decision to increase the DFID budget to 12 billion pounds by thenext election stirred uproar amongst opponents of cuts to otherdepartments’ services. However, this diversion of funding hasinduced criticism, with head of policy at major UK-based charityOxfam, Mark Lawson, saying Britain’s aid money should go to“schools, not soldiers.” Following Wednesday’s budget, Fitch global ratings agency said thatthe UK faced the“heightened probability of a downgrade” towards the close of April. Moody’s downgraded the UK around amonth ago, making it the first of the three major agencies to doso, in the process stripping the country of its AAA rating.
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