Boris Johnson has reportedly told MPs he will not use austerity measures to pay back the billions spent on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Fielding questions from the 1922 committee of backbench Tories yesterday, the Prime Minister rejected the idea of a pay freeze for NHS workers, the Daily Telegraph reports.
When he was asked if he would consider the measure, he is said to have replied: “Absolutely not. Anyone who suggests that can sit on it.”
Addressing the influential group of around 125 MPs, the PM is also understood to have committed to bankrolling new transport projects in the north of England.
Speaking on a conference call, he said the Government is gearing up to spend vast sums on infrastructure as the UK emerges from lockdown measures, the paper adds.
Saying his approach was “unlike any other Conservative government”, he told colleagues: “We are going to make sure we level up right across the country and keep faith with the people who voted for us”.
Treasury assessments put the cost of dealing with the coronavirus crisis at more than £300 billion.
“Best case scenario” forecasts suggest that the country’s budget deficit this year could hit £337 billion, more than six times the £55 billion predicted in the March budget.
Leaked documents have previously suggested that increases to income tax, an end to the triple lock on state pensions and a public sector pay freeze may need to be considered to make up for the shortfall.
Mr Johnson also reportedly spoke to the committee about his strategy for avoiding a second wave of coronavirus cases, saying: “We mustn’t let the mugger get back off the floor, and we’re going to play Whack-a-Mole across the country wherever coronavirus flares up.”
We’re testing a new site:
It comes as the UK death toll from coronavirus reached 33,998 today after the Department for Health confirmed a further 384 people lost their lives today.
The latest figure includes those who died in hospitals, as well as fatalities in care homes and private residences.
A 15-year-old child was the youngest victim in England among the latest hospital casualties, while a 30-year-old with no known underlying health conditions also died after contracting the virus.
A further 3,560 people had tested positive for the virus by 9am this morning, with the overall number of diagnosed cases reaching 236,711.
The Government’s top advisory group has also warned that the ‘R’ rate of infections is rising and could be close to one.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the UK reproduction number for the coronavirus is now between 0.7 and one, having risen from 0.5 and 0.9 last week.
If the R is higher than one, then the rate of infection will rise across the UK, while if it is lower than one, then the outbreak will shrink.
The research was carried out by six research groups and suggested that cases in care homes and hospitals accounted for a greater proportion of cases than last week.
Wide variations in the ‘R’ rate between regions have emerged, with it as low as 0.4 in London, but as high as 0.8 in other areas.
The planned reopening schools at the start of June, which is concerning unions, is dependent on the ‘R’ figure being under control.