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UK Economy Forecast To Shrink, Teachers Set To Strike, Labour Calls For Anti-Social Crime Crackdown

Jeremy Hunt said the forecast showed the UK economy faced further pressures (Alamy)

6 min read

The UK is the only country in the developed world whose economy is expected to shrink next year, according to a new IMF report which has placed the blame on high energy prices and government spending rules.

The latest economic forecasts published by the international group found that even Russia's economy is expected to outperform the UK, with GDP expected to contract by 0.6 per cent in 2023.

The Fund said it had made the decision to downgrade the UK's forecasted performance "reflecting tighter fiscal and monetary policies and financial conditions and still-high energy retail prices weighing on household budgets".

Describing the UK's slip from the top to the bottom of the G7 table of expected growth for the period, IMF economic counsellor Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, said the "sharp correction" would be "quite challenging" for the economy.

The decision to downgrade the UK's performance will put further pressure on the government, which has largely blamed the economic downturn on global pressures that are affecting all countries.

"The governor of the Bank of England recently said that any UK recession this year is likely to be shallower than previously predicted, however these figures confirm we are not immune to the pressures hitting nearly all advanced economies," Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said in response. 

He added: "Short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects – the UK outperformed many forecasts last year, and if we stick to our plan to halve inflation, the UK is still predicted to grow faster than Germany and Japan over the coming years."

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the figures pointed to "difficult times" for the UK economy, saying the country was being "held back and lagging behind".

"The government should be doing all it can to make our economy stronger," she added.

Teachers set for first day of strike action on Wednesday

Teacher's in England and Wales are due to strike tomorrow over a row over pay and conditions after last minute talks failed to break the impasse.

It is the first of seven expected strike days by members of the NEU union, with around 23,000 schools expected to be impacted by Wednesday's industrial action.

Union leaders had been calling for a "fully funded, above-inflation pay rise for teachers" but confirmed the strikes would proceed after talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan collapsed earlier this week.

The union accused Keegan of having "squandered an opportunity" to avert the strikes, while she claimed strikes were "not being used as a last resort" following negotiations.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, transport minister Richard Holden risked further inflaming tensions as he said the strikes were "not responsible" and insisted teachers were receiving a "reasonable" pay package.

"I don't think it's responsible for teachers to be going out on strike at this moment in time," he said.

"The average teacher's on about £39,500 a year, and this government's offered a 4% to 5% settlement, which would take that to well over £40,000 a year.

"And that's the average classroom teacher – plus around a quarter of that salary is a pension contribution as well."

He added: "I think it's a reasonable package overall, and I don't want to see public sector workers out on strike because the impact it has on everybody else."

Labour calls for crackdown on anti-social crime

Labour is expected to use a Commons debate to call for an increase in neighbourhood policing after a surge in anti-social behaviour incidents.

Pointing to newly published crime stats by the ONS, which showed an average of 3,000 reports of anti-social behaviour each day, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said ministers had "left communities to fight crime and anti-social behaviour on their own".

Labour will use the Opposition Day debate to call on the government to ringfence a proportion of the government's planned new 20,000 officers to be dedicated to neighbourhood policing after a new analysis by the party found 6,000 neighbourhood officers had been cut since 2015.

Cooper is expected to use the debate to accuse the government of having "decimated neighbourhood policing".

Labour claimed 6,000 neighbourhood police had been cut since 2015
Labour claimed 6,000 community officers had been cut since 2015 (Alamy)

She will say: "Across the country, people just don't see police on their streets anymore, and feel less and less safe as a result.

"Meanwhile, for millions of people anti-social behaviour has become part of day-to-day life, ruining lives without consequence."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has already committed to using the uplift in officers to improve community safety, saying they would be used to "drive down invasive crimes" including burglary and neighbourhood offences.

Matt Hancock defends giving only 3 per cent of I'm a Celeb fee to charity

Matt Hancock speaking to journalists
Matt Hancock appeared on I'm a Celeb in November 2022 (Alamy)

Matt Hancock appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain for the first time since coming third on reality show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here in November. 

The MP for West Suffolk had the Tory whip removed for appearing on I'm a Celeb while he was a sitting MP, and now sits as an independent.

GMB presenters Kate Garraway and Richard Madeley challenged Hancock over his appearance fee of £320,000, as well as his response to Covid-19 during his time as health secretary.

Hancock confirmed that he donated 3 per cent – £10,000 – of this money to charity, an amount which he insisted is a "decent sum" and was "more than my MPs salary" he received for the time period he was on television.

Hancock said that "of course there was a discussion and negotiation over the fee" but insisted he "didn't primarily do it for the money, I primarily did it to try to show who I am".

He believed that I’m a Celeb was “one of the few ways that you can really communicate with the British public”.

Before appearing on the show, Hancock said one of his motivations was to raise awareness of dyslexia. 

Garraway, whose husband Derek Draper is still experiencing serious ill health due to long Covid, also questioned Hancock over the Government's Covid response.

She said the former health secretary taking part in the reality TV showed he did “not understand" why the public were "cross" about his lockdown-breaking affair with Gina Coladangelo when Covid restrictions were in place, for which he lost his Cabinet position. 

Hancock said he regretted “the pain” that he had caused but felt that it was “reasonable” to ask for forgiveness from the public.

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