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UK Treasury chief announces billions in cuts

Danica Kirka, Associated Press

In this image taken from TV Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday June 26, 2013. George Osborne is set to announce billions of pounds in spending cuts as the cash-strapped nation tries to make ends meet. (AP Photo/PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

LONDON (AP) -- Britain's Treasury chief announced 11.5 billion pounds ($17.7 billion) in spending cuts Wednesday as the government slashed the budgets in many departments in an attempt to make ends meet.

George Osborne had hoped that Britain could move past austerity programs by the time he released the latest national spending review, which sets out state spending limits for 2015-2016. In his last review, in 2010, he laid out plans to cut the deficit by 2015 — in time for the next election.

However, Britain's economic growth rate is an anemic 0.3 percent and the deficit has increased. Osborne said he had to act to boost growth and long term investment.

"Britain is moving out from intensive care and from rescue to recovery," Osborne declared.

He cited challenges "from abroad" such as the financial crisis in the 17-country eurozone and higher oil prices as part of the reason "this country has to continue to make savings."

Some departments, such as that dealing with local communities and justice, received cuts of 10 percent. Cuts are coming in arts, sports, and other community programs while changes were broadly outlined to keep welfare spending in line.

Defense fared better than many departments. The massive defense budget remained steady at 24 billion pounds. Counter-terror programs were also spared the axe.

Economists at the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggest the British government is optimistic in its forecasts and that the country may need until 2020 to get past the age of austerity.

Osborne said borrowing is set to be 108 billion pounds this year.