What we needed yesterday from the Spending Review was a bold and ambitious plan. We needed a plan that protects the public and workers during the pandemic – particularly those whose health and jobs are most at-risk – and provides a package of green stimulus that will revive the economy while decarbonising it.
Unfortunately, that’s not what the Government gave us. We got cuts to international aid, even though the 0.7% commitment is really the bare minimum we should be contributing.
We got a freeze on public sector pay that will punish key workers who have helped us through the pandemic, and not a word about whether the Universal Credit uplift will be continued beyond April.
Instead of an unequivocal commitment to investing in communities that have had local services decimated by austerity, we got a ‘Levelling Up Fund’ which will force communities to bid against each other.
This, I am sorry to say, is not the transformative intervention that is both desperately needed and entirely achievable.
The immediate priority is to protect the public’s health and welfare during this health crisis. We also need to step up action on our transition to a clean, green, and sustainable economy, while showing international leadership on achieving net zero in a way that’s underpinned by the principles of justice and freedom-for-all.
No one should be made destitute by the pandemic, and in line with the recommendations of the Reset Report I am fully behind the introduction of a minimum income guarantee, or some form of Universal Basic Income, which already has the backing of more than 500 UK politicians.
Labour’s own Green Recovery Report proposes bringing forward a £30 billion programme of capital investment and dedicating it to low-carbon sectors over the next 18 months. This would be part of a rapid stimulus package to support an estimated 400,000 additional jobs.
Looking at how we #BuildBackBetter will require us to think differently about our economy and the global economy, and about pay, work, and welfare. This reimagining is a huge opportunity for us to build an economy that’s working for people and planet. And isn’t this what so many of us want?
The Reset Report published by the APPG on a Green New Deal, which I Co-Chair, found that two thirds of people think that the Government should prioritise health and wellbeing above economic growth, while just one in five think that the Government should prioritise GDP growth.
So I’m going to be unflinching in calling for the Government to invest in this country and its people, and I will challenge any suggestion that what we need right now is cuts. We don’t.
Just as the Reset Report sets out, at a time of high unemployment and low interest rates, Government can create jobs, stimulate economic activity and restore business confidence – particularly when there is work that needs to be done to decarbonise the economy.
Yesterday I spoke on the CLASS: Centre for Labour and Social Studies panel about the Spending Review, you can listen to what I had to say there here: