Covid-19: PM announces “ambitious” recovery plan
Prime minister Boris Johnson has unveiled his plans to kick-start the economic recovery following the Covid-19 crisis, emphasising a need to be “ambitious” with the nation’s future.
Johnson promised that persistent economic issues would be amended, along with a £5 billion “new deal” for the building of homes and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, investment plans set out in the Conservative party’s 2019 election manifesto will be accelerated and intensified.
Speaking in the West Midlands, Johnson said that the government would “build, build, build” as it continued its plans to “level up”, stressing that too many areas of the country had been “left behind” and “neglected”.
As well as accelerating infrastructure projects, investment will go toward schools, green buses, public spaces, broadband provision and hospitals.
Johnson’s speech came in response to the revelation that the UK economy contracted quicker than any time since 1979 between January and March this year.
Meanwhile, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that he would set out “the next stage” in the government’s “plan to secure the recovery” on July 8.
The PM conceded that the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis could see more jobs lost, but stressed that a new “opportunity guarantee” would provide all young people with placement and apprenticeship opportunities.
He added that the government’s strategy was to provide jobs and stressed that he would not see austerity reintroduced, but stopped short of giving an exact figure of how many jobs would be generated by the scheme.
The PM said: “We don't yet know what the full economic impact is going to be...we will do everything we can to get this economy moving."
According to Johnson, planning laws will also be streamlined in order to encourage further building from September, while pubs, libraries and village shops will be protected from any changes.
Justifying his new “project speed”, the prime minister rebuffed suggestions he had shifted toward the left of the political spectrum and claimed he had been inspired by the New Deal introduced by former US President Franklin D Roosevelt, which took America out of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
However, Johnson’s plan has been met with criticism from both the opposition and the Confederation of British Industry [CBI], who say that there is insufficient focus on job retention.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "We're facing an economic crisis, the biggest we've seen in a generation and the recovery needs to match that. What's been announced amounts to less than £100 per person.
"And it's the re-announcement of many manifesto pledges and commitments, so it's not enough. We're not going to argue against a recovery plan, but the focus has to be on jobs."
Carolyn Fairbairn, the outgoing director general of the CBI, also stressed that the “focus on rescuing viable firms cannot slip”, calling Johnson’s plan a mere laying down of the “first steps on the path to recovery”.