Truss tries to reassure UK on economic plan

NNA - British Prime Minister Liz Truss tried to reassure her party and the public on Sunday by saying she should have done more to "lay the ground" for an economic plan that caused the pound to fall to record lows and sent government borrowing costs soaring.

On the first day of her governing Conservative Party's annual conference, Truss, in office for less than a month, adopted a softer tone by saying she would support the public during a difficult winter and beyond.

But she stood by her "growth plan", a package of tax-cutting measures launched on Sept. 23 that investors and economists have criticised for setting out billions of pounds of additional spending while offering very few details on how it would be paid for in the short term.

Truss said it was the right plan, suggesting critics did not realise the depth of Britain's problems and saying she should have done more to explain them -- an argument that market traders and investors have dismissed as a reason for the falls in the pound and the increase in borrowing costs last week.

"I understand their worries about what has happened this week," she told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show.

"I do stand by the package we announced, and I stand by the fact that we announced it quickly because we had to act, but I do accept that we should have laid the ground better," she said.

Truss took office on Sept. 6, but Queen Elizabeth died two days later and so the first two weeks of the new prime minister's term were largely taken up with the national mourning period, when politics was all but paused.

After a large sell-off, the pound has since recovered after Britsin's central bank, the Bank of England stepped in, but government borrowing costs remain markedly higher. Investors say the government will have to work hard to restore confidence.

PARTY CRITICS

Beyond the initial market reaction, Truss's economic plan also raised eyebrows in the Conservative Party, particularly over the scrapping of the highest 45% level of income tax.

Some in the party fear they are at risk of being seen as "the nasty party", cutting taxes for the wealthiest, while doing little to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Truss said this was not true, supporting the move to abolish the highest level of tax but adding that the decision was taken by her finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng.

"No, we didn't, this was a decision that the chancellor made," Truss said when asked whether all of her cabinet of top ministers had been told in advance that the decision had been made.

She also suggested that politicians spent too much time worrying about how their policies were received by the public, saying she was focused on driving growth. Truss has often said she is not scared of making unpopular decisions.

"What I care about is about making our country successful, making our economy successful," she said. "I do think there has been too much focus in politics on the optics or how things look."

But she struggled when pressed to answer whether scrapping some taxes would have to be paid for with cuts to public services, saying she wanted the best possible services, which offer taxpayers value for money.

Asked at least four times to say if she planned to cut government spending on public services, she said: "I am going to make sure we get value for money for the taxpayer, but I am very, very committed to making sure we have excellent frontline public services." --- Reuters

 

 

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