LONDON (AP) — Britain must stick to its tough austerity measures despite doubts elsewhere in Europe over the best remedy to fix the continent's stalled economies, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Tuesday.
After the election in France of Socialist Francois Hollande, who has vowed to buck Europe's austerity trend, and a Greek race in which voters punished mainstream parties over their support for budget restraint, Cameron said he wouldn't waver over Britain's program of spending cuts.
Fixing the debt-ravaged economy "remains our guiding task and in these perilous times it's more important than ever for Britain that we stick to it," Cameron said while on a visit to Essex, southern England, with his deputy, Nick Clegg.
The prime minister and Clegg were making a rare joint appearance to gather support for their coalition government amid growing unease over Britain's economic path.
Both Cameron's Conservative Party and Clegg's Liberal Democrats suffered heavy losses in local elections, as voters punished them for spending cuts that are seeing welfare payments trimmed and about 700,000 public sector jobs axed.
Yet analysts warn the most severe elements of a four-year program of about 81 billion pounds ($130 billion) of cuts to government spending have yet to bite — meaning public dissent is likely to grow as living standards decline.
Treasury chief George Osborne has already warned that Britain will likely need two additional years of austerity after the scheduled 2015 national election, a package expected to include a further 23 billion ($37 billion) of budget trimming.
Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who won major gains in Thursday's local election, said voters struggling to balance family budgets were dismayed at the government's plans, including a decision to lower taxes for high earners.
"They promised fairness, they promised that we were all in it together," Miliband said. "Things have got worse, not better, because they are standing up for the wrong people."
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