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Campaigners’ anger as Sunak says overseas aid cut will continue

By PA News

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The UK’s overseas aid budget was cut last year to 0.5% of national income (Stefan Wermuth/PA)

Charities and campaigners have expressed anger and disappointment that cuts to the UK’s overseas aid budget will remain for at least another three years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs he expected the improving public finances to allow him to restore the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas development aid in 2024-25.

It followed the controversial decision last year to reduce it to 0.5% – despite 0.7% being enshrined in law – as part of the emergency measures to deal with the pandemic.

Amy Dodd of The One Campaign to end extreme global poverty said the Chancellor should have acted to restore the 0.7% target immediately.

She expressed concern that the “lack of clarity” in his statement could mean the Treasury was planning to further dilute the UK’s commitment to development aid by using it to fund things such as Covid vaccines, which were not in the original target.

“This lack of clarity given is disappointing and strengthens concerns that the Chancellor is using accounting trickery to make further cuts,” she said.

“Having already shrunk the UK’s support for development, implementing further cuts by stealth would exacerbate the challenges of climate and Covid already faced by developing countries.

“If Government is serious about tackling global challenges, as it should be on the eve of G20 and Cop26, it should commit to returning to 0.7% now, as the UK economy bounces back to pre-Covid levels and when it is most critically needed.”

Nick Dearden of the Global Justice Now campaign said: “All the Chancellor has confirmed today is that he is incapable of looking beyond the UK’s own borders.

“Locking in aid cuts for a further three years will have a devastating impact, costing countless lives in the global south – and that should weigh on Rishi Sunak’s conscience.”

Stephanie Draper, of the Bond network for UK organisations working in development, said the Chancellor was again “balancing the books on the backs of the poorest” while undermining trust in the UK.

“With such strong messages about the strength of our economy, it’s sad that the Chancellor can’t be as generous as the British public towards those suffering the most from the pandemic and climate change,” she said.

“This makes the UK’s standing in addressing global inequality even more questionable, whilst severely undermining crucial Cop26 negotiations.”

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