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A senior economist has warned the UK is facing "austerity by stealth" as soaring inflation eats into public sector finances.
Budgets for government departments were set in Rishi Sunak's autumn budget last year, when inflation was predicted to peak at around 4%.
However, with inflation now expected to hit 11% this year, the money promised to services such as schools and the NHS is not going as far.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at University College London, said this leaves the UK's public services facing austerity by the back door.
“Those planned real terms increases in NHS spending have already been largely swallowed up by inflation," said Portes.
"And, worse, it means that there will actually be real cuts for education - and even more so for other public services.”
The policy of austerity was introduced in 2010 during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition following the financial crisis, with the government arguing reducing spending was needed to tackle the public spending deficit.
In addition, departments are having to fund higher than expected pay rises from existing budgets.
According to the Institute for Fiscal studies, department budgets were set with the expectation of public sector pay rises of around 2-3%, whereas public sector workers have been offered pay rises averaging 5%.
Rising energy bills are putting particular pressure on certain departmental budgets - with Portes warning fields like education will face higher energy bills to heat classrooms.
He criticised Tory leadership hopefuls Sunak and Liz Truss, claiming they were not spending enough time on these challenges.
"The Tories are engaging in this arms race over tax cuts," he said.
"But that is not actually the main issue. The main issue is that public services are being cut. And the government is literally doing nothing about it.”
During the leadership contest, Truss has said she does not plan to go down the avenue of restricting public spending.
"I’m certainly not talking about public spending cuts, what I’m talking about is raising growth," said Truss earlier this month.
“I want people to be able to keep hold of their own money - but we’ll also have more money to spend on our public services over the long term.”
Sunak has failed to address the topic head on and has made no commitments on public spending levels.
There is concern within the Conservative party about the lack of focus on public services, with Tory MP Neil O'Brien saying candidates need to face up to the crisis facing the public sector.
"I support value for money and smaller government," he wrote in ConservativeHome on Monday.
"But we must be realistic about the fiscal pressures that the new leader will face.
"If we don’t tackle the cost-of-living crisis, or aren’t seen to have a clear plan to fix problems in the public services, there’s no way we’ll win the next election.
"Unfortunately, meeting these challenges will cost money."
It comes after the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) issued a warning on Thursday that soaring inflation is leaving public services on the path towards austerity.
"As things stand, unexpectedly high inflation is already set to lead to another dose of austerity for public services," it said.
The IFS added: "Whoever is in office in the autumn will have to make a choice between topping up spending plans to shore up public services, or requiring any additional costs to be met from within existing budgets.
"The former would eat into the fiscal headroom available for tax cuts; the latter would mean a deterioration in the quality of public service provision."
Watch: Truss responds to claims she would cause inflation to spiral