Finance minister Sunak says must make public finances sustainable over time

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak visits Peak Scientific, a Scottish manufacturer of gas generators for analytical laboratories in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, August 7, 2020. Andy Buchanan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Britain would need to make its public finances sustainable over time, but he did not comment on reports of planned tax rises, saying his first task was jobs and driving a recovery.

“In the short term my priority is to drive our recovery forward to protect and support and create as many jobs as possible, but of course it’s right that over time we have sustainable public finances,” Sunak said.

“I think everyone understands we can’t carry on doing exactly what we did this year forever.”

Britain’s public debt has passed 2 trillion pounds, pushed up by emergency spending on Sunak’s coronavirus job retention scheme, tax cuts for businesses and consumers and even a dining-out subsidy to coax people back into restaurants.

That has pushed the question of how to pay for additional borrowing up the agenda, with weekend newspaper reports suggesting the finance ministry was looking at sweeping tax rises.

Sunak, speaking at the launch of a scheme to help young people into work, said such reports were speculation. A budget is expected later this year.

Reporting by William James, editing by Andy Bruce and Stephen Addison