UK asks austerity-weary workers to suggest new budget cuts

george osbourne
British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has been trying to close a budget deficit for years through big spending cuts and some tax increases.

Imagine your pay has been frozen for years and thousands of colleagues have been let go. Then your boss asks you for ideas on how to save even more money.

That's exactly what the British government is doing to millions of workers in healthcare, education and administration.

Finance minister George Osborne tweeted that he has emailed every public sector employee to "ask for their views on how we can continue to do more with less."

"Frontline public service workers know how to make savings. That's why I've asked for their views as part of the #SpendingReview," he said on Twitter (TWTR).

People lashed out immediately, attacking the wealthy Oxford-educated politician, who is also heir to an interior design company.

One tweeter wrote: "Hope they suggest that you're processed into fertilizer and your fortune is distributed to the underclass you have created."

Another suggested a creative way to raise funds: "Sell off the chance to have 30 seconds in a boxing ring with your good self! Would raise millions."

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The British government has been slashing public spending and welfare for years to close a stubbornly wide budget deficit.

It expects its austerity drive will save £100 billion ($156 billion) by the end of this fiscal year. But it's looking for another £20 billion in savings over the next four years.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank, says that means some government departments will have seen budget cuts of nearly one-third in total.

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It's easy to see why Osborne's email may touch a raw nerve with teachers, nurses and civil servants.

Their annual pay rises will be restricted to just 1% over the next four years to save the government £5 billion ($7.8 billion). British politicians have just been awarded a one-off pay rise of 10%.

But the government is putting a cheery spin on things.

"This ... is your opportunity to tell central government where the waste is and your ideas for how things could be done better or more efficiently," they explained a survey linked to the email.

The government said previous suggestions from public sector workers led to significant cost savings initiatives. In one instance, departments were able to cut back on multiple criminal records checks by making greater use of online services.

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