UPDATE 1-Italy to seek confidence vote on austerity budget

* Italy govt reaches agreement on changes to budget

* Budget size unchanged

* Govt to call confidence vote to push through package

(adds detail, background)

ROME, July 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Italy’s government said on Monday
it would call a confidence vote in parliament to push through an
unpopular 25-billion-euro austerity budget after agreeing
changes that leave the overall size of the package unchanged.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hammered out a deal with
his Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti on modifications as they
faced growing criticism from both inside and outside the
centre-right coalition over the deficit-cutting measures.

The two agreed on “improvements” to the budget, without
changing the overall amount of deficit-cutting measures
included, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Italian media have said Berlusconi and Tremonti were at
loggerheads over the budget, which the normally effervescent
prime minister feared was too harsh and would sink his
popularity ratings.

A confidence vote will allow Berlusconi to quickly push
through the package in parliament — where he has a solid
majority — without having to debate modification proposals
presented by lawmakers.

The budget includes funding cuts to local governments and
salary freezes for public sector workers, prompting an outcry
from mayors, regional governors and Italy’s largest union.

A government statement said that while individual interest
in changing the budget could be seen as legitimate, the process
would take too long.

Tens of thousands of Italians marched through cities and
towns last month in a general strike protesting the austerity
budget they said bleeds workers but spares the rich.

Polls have shown Berlusconi’s ratings have fallen over the
budget, but divisions among major unions are expected to allow
Italy to escape the kind of social unrest seen in Greece.

Italy is one of several euro zone nations that have rushed
to approve austerity measures in order to restore confidence in
the single currency and deflect contagion from Greece’s debt
(Writing by Deepa Babington)

UPDATE 1-Italy to seek confidence vote on austerity budget