The Chancellor’s irresponsible choices have damaged the economy, we now need an urgent path to recovery
The choices the Chancellor has made recently have really hurt the recovery, writes Abena Oppong-Asare MP. | PA Images
The Tories talk about levelling up, but the reality is that they've been letting people down. We need urgent action to recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild business in every part of the country.
Today’s Spending Review is about choices. Like a Budget, a spending review is not just about numbers – but about the priorities, values, and direction the government wants to take the country. Today is this government's chance to make the responsible choices Britain needs to get us on the path to recovery.
There must be a relentless focus on jobs and growth – on getting our economy back on its feet. Sadly, the choices the Chancellor has made recently have really hurt the recovery. He had to come back week in week out to change his plans, blocked a circuit breaker leading to a longer, more painful lockdown, and still hasn’t acted to fix Britain’s broken safety net. These irresponsible choices are damaging the economy. That’s why we now need urgent action to recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild business in every part of the country.
We hear a lot of rhetoric from the government about action to tackle regional inequality. Today they'll make a lot more noise about 'levelling up' the country with another set of pledges on infrastructure. But whether it’s Boris Island or the Boris Bridge, when it comes to turning these promises into reality the Prime Minister's record is one of utter failure.
And those failures don't start and end with the Prime Minister. We're in the eleventh year of Conservative government, and the ninth month of the pandemic. From rail projects to courts modernisation, from hospitals to schools, they have simply not delivered. Billions of pounds of public money were wasted on pet projects and white elephants in the ten years before the pandemic.
It’s astonishing that the government can clap for our key workers one day and then target their pay the next
Billions more have been wasted since it began, with money handed over to Tory donors for outsourced contracts or spent on a Test and Trace system that still doesn’t work. That money could have been spent on action to make a difference to people's lives. The Tories talk about levelling up, but the reality is that they've been letting people down.
So, we want to see infrastructure spending focused on driving the recovery, with a clean, green recovery to confront the combined challenges of the unemployment and climate crises, and stimulate jobs and growth in every part of our country. By bringing forward £30bn in capital spending over the next 18 months and investing it in the clean industries of the future right across the UK, we can support at least 400,000 new jobs.
Instead the Chancellor is floating pay freezes for our key workers and considering holding off on a minimum wage rise for people. It’s astonishing that the government can clap for our key workers one day and then target their pay the next. It would be another irresponsible decision by this Chancellor.
Making people worried about making ends meet ahead of Christmas would choke off any chance of recovery by hitting workers in their pockets at the worst possible time. The UK has had the worst downturn in the G7 – the government should be doing all it can to build up confidence in the economy, not shooting it down.
The Chancellor has a chance to make the responsible choice. To act to make this country the best one to grow up in and the best to grow old in. Let's see if he can rise to it.
Abena Oppong-Asare is the Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead and shadow exchequer secretary to the treasury.