U.K. Government Stakes Future on Austerity Plan

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Bank bailouts and welfare spending have forced the British government to call for the deepest cuts in public spending since World War II.

The plan to be announced Wednesday aims at clearing the country's debts in five years. Most U.K. government agencies will see cuts ranging from 25 to 40 percent.

The country plans to slash 80 billion pounds in spending, which is equal to about $128 billion, and increase taxes to reduce its huge debt.

As many as 500,000 public sector jobs are likely to be lost in the cuts.

Under the proposed plan, about 1.2 million families will lose child benefit payments beginning in 2013, and tens of thousands more Britons are likely to see their welfare checks trimmed or scrapped.

If the government decides to slash its winter fuel allowance, millions of retirees could lose out on subsidized heating. About 12 million people currently receive the payments.

"I wish there was another way. I wish there was an easier way. But I tell you: There is no other responsible way," Prime Minister David Cameron told an annual rally of his Conservative Party earlier this month.

Recent surveys and protests, however, suggest that many Britons are not happy with the cuts even before the details have been announced. On Tuesday, hundreds of labor union members vowed to oppose the spending cuts, marching to Parliament to protest Osborne's plans.

"We begin campaigning today. We're unfolding the banner," said Nick Long, a 52-year-old union representative from south London. "We will fight back."

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