June 23, 2010 / 11:08 PM / 9 years ago

Cameron asks state workers how to spend less

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg wrote to six million public sector workers on Thursday asking for ideas on how to save money and tackle a record peacetime deficit.

Prime Minister David Cameron waits to greet the Taoiseach of Ireland Brian Cowen outside 10 Downing Street, in central London, June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Chancellor George Osborne in his budget this week called for a 25 percent spending cut in all government departments except health and international development to neutralise a deficit of around 11 percent of gross domestic product by 2015.

The letter to all state employees from the leaders of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is an attempt to win support for the toughest round of spending cuts in decades.

Lib Dem leader Clegg warned ahead of the May election that brought the coalition to power that failure to achieve public acceptance for the cutbacks could result in “Greek-style social and industrial strife.”

Greece has been hit by strikes and street protests against government austerity measures aimed at cutting its deficit.

“We want you to help us find those savings, so we can cut public spending in a way that is fair and responsible,” Conservative leader Cameron and Clegg said.

“You work on the frontline of public services. You know where things are working well, where the waste is, and where we can re-think things so that we get better services for less money.”

The coalition’s strategy of public engagement ahead of large spending cuts follows similar programmes overseas.

In the late 1990s Canada faced a budget deficit of 9 percent of GDP but managed to return to surplus within five years after slashing government spending.

The Canadian cuts were accompanied by extensive public consultation. “(You) need to prepare your public and legitimately consult with them as to the trade-offs that have to be made,” former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin told Reuters this month.

Reporting by Tim Castle

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