Philip Hammond is facing ridicule over his latest Budget - even before he’s delivered it - as it emerged his ‘Fit For The Future’ slogan is a widely-used synonym for austerity and cuts programmes.
The Treasury revealed on Tuesday night that the Chancellor would make the phrase the key line in his financial update for MPs, declaring he wanted “an outward looking, free-trading nation, a force for good in the world, a country fit for the future.”
In a bid to reassure voters with the upbeat message, Theresa May also deployed the soundbite earlier this week in an article previewing the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
But HuffPost UK can reveal that ‘Fit For The Future’ - the official title of the Budget - has been used to title efficiency programmes that have slashed millions of pounds worth of spending in the NHS, social care, Transport for London and a string of councils across England.
Among the public bodies that have used the phrase are Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Trust, which cut £30m from supply chain management, and clinical commissioning groups in places ranging from Glasgow to Basildon in Essex.
London transport bosses used it to describe their programme of cuts to tube station ticket offices and 750 jobs, which were bitterly resisted by trade unions.
Councils across the country, from Lichfield to Devon, have devised ‘Fit for the Future’ policies as they struggle with central Government cuts to their budgets, and even ministers have used the phrase to describe local authority savings.
Jon Trickett, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, told HuffPost UK: “The Tories have completely run out of ideas, with stale reheated slogans illustrating the advanced decay of this failing government.
“Far from being fit for the future, the Conservative Party is on its knees with only one story to tell - more austerity for years to come - while Labour stands ready to take over and form a government for the many not the few.”
Hammond is set to deliver his second Budget on Wednesday amid huge political and budgetary pressure.
His office tweeted out the customary eve-of-Budget photos of him working hard at his Treasury desk and trailed a policy-free extract from his speech.
And his ‘Fit for the Future’ theme has become the new Tory mantra in recent weeks, replacing George Osborne’s ‘Long Term Economic Plan’.
.@Conservatives have taken action on tax avoidance and evasion - we are building a Britain that is fit for the future. #PMQs pic.twitter.com/ux1KuAtSno — CCHQ Press Office (@CCHQPress) November 15, 2017
May used the phrase three times in Prime Minister’s Questions last week and Tory campaigns HQ underlined the message with its Twitter account.
But the Chancellor now faces Labour jibes over its widespread association with continued cuts and austerity.
Here are just a few examples in the public sector.
Guys And St Thomas’ NHS Trust
In extracts of the Chancellor’s speech released on Tuesday, the Treasury said he would say he wanted:
“A prosperous and inclusive economy where everybody has the opportunity to shine wherever in the UK they live, whatever their background.
“An outward looking, free-trading nation, a force for good in the world, a country fit for the future.
“In this Budget, we express our resolve to look forwards, to embrace change, to meet our challenges head on, and to seize the opportunities for Britain.
“Because for the first time in decades, Britain is genuinely at the forefront of a technological revolution, not just in our universities and research institutes, but this time in the commercial development labs of our great companies and on the factory floors and business parks across the land.
“So we must invest to secure a bright future for Britain, and at this Budget that is what we choose to do.”