Boris Johnson is promising a spending blitz to revitalise the battered UK economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
With forecasts of staggering unemployment and a sluggish recovery from the three months of economic closure the Prime Minister is due to announce a “New Deal” which delivers jobs, skills and infrastructure.
In an echo of 1970s football pools winner Vivian Nicolson’s promise to “spend, spend, spend” the Prime Minister will promise to “build, build, build” the economy.
The Prime Minister will announce that we bring forward £5 billion of capital investment projects in schools and hospitals and schools across the Midlands and North of England where the Tories captured 44 seats from Labour in the December election.
An economic update from the chancellor Rishi Sunak will follow in July.
Johnson said it was time for a “Rooseveltian approach to the UK”, referencing the former US president’s programme of economy-boosting public works in the 1930s under his New Deal policy.
But there is scant reference to Scotland in the Prime Minister’s plans and no figures on what proportion of the multi-billion spending will trigger so-called Barnett consequentials that flow to Holyrood when the UK government makes spending commitments in areas of devolved responsibility.
According to senior Whitehall figures the lack of a figure is a sure sign that the UK Treasury has not negotiated with spending departments what portion of the money is new or recycled funding.
All Downing Street could furnish was the £5.4 billion figure the UK government has already sent to Scotland through the Barnett Formula this year and to other devolved administrations.
In a statement Downing Street said: “We would encourage them to accelerate infrastructure projects in the same way that the UK Government is doing.”
When asked about the Barnett figure at the daily press briefing on Monday the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman simply laughed.
Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said the country needed an emergency budget and flexibility on the furlough support scheme.
She said: ““We urgently need the Conservatives to abandon their ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the economic support schemes, which will inevitably lead to additional unemployment. And we need concrete action and a laser-like focus preventing further job losses and supporting future employment.”
Dodds added: “Unemployment has climbed to its highest level in a generation, and our country is suffering the worst economic hit of all industrialised nations. But instead of the Back-to-Work Budget our country needs focusing on one thing – jobs, jobs, jobs – the Chancellor will only be providing an ‘update’ on the economy.”