Chancellor Rishi Sunak will submit his first spending review tomorrow. We can expect a blizzard of announcements from a government desperate to give the impression that it is finally getting a grip on the UK employment crisis. However, the real test will be simple: does it significantly improve the lives of families across the country?
A spending review is a chance to shape the country we want to be. The work for Britain is ambitious: we want to make it the best place to grow up and the best place to grow old. Unfortunately we are going backwards under the Tories. After a decade of conservative rule, inequality has risen, wages have stagnated, child and elderly care costs have risen, crime has risen, and main roads across the country are fighting.
This government claims it has the answers to regional inequality. But the Conservatives just didn’t deliver. On Wednesday they will make a lot of noise when it comes to “leveling” the country with further commitments for the infrastructure. But when it comes to infrastructure, from Boris Island to Boris Bridge, the Prime Minister’s report on the fulfillment of his promises is a complete failure.
And these failures don’t start and end with the Prime Minister. In ten years of conservative failure, billions have been wasted on pet projects and white elephants instead of taking action to improve people’s lives. The Tories talk about ascending, but the reality is that they have let people down.
So people no longer want to hear empty rhetoric and last minute decision making from this government. It is time to make responsible decisions to protect our key workers, secure the economy and restore jobs in every part of the country. And it is time for a relentless focus on jobs and growth to get our economy back on its feet, with urgent action to restore jobs, retrain workers and rebuild businesses across the country.
The spending review does not usually include new taxes (which will be announced in the budget), but we expect the long-belated National Infrastructure Strategy, updated economic forecasts from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) and new “Green Book” guidance for civil servants to evaluate and evaluate proposals for public Expenditure.
All in all, there is a lot of leeway for the government to use the spending review to set a better course for our country – but there are many reasons to suspect that this is not the case. What else should we be looking for this week?
First off, there are three things that we believe the Tories will try to get through in the expense review …
1. Have I heard that before?
Investments (investments and things that will lead to growth in the future, such as new transport links) are something that the Conservative government announces very well and does less well. Some projects have been announced and re-announced and re-announced, but they are still not there. We envision some of them being announced again this week.
Be on the lookout for long-time favorites like the goal of permanently missing 300,000 households a year, completing the rapid expansion of the superfast broadband network, completing the long overdue modernization program for courts, the well-over-budget Royal Liverpool Hospital or the migration of several of the households The existing benefits of the UK under the Universal Loan.
2. Freeze key workers pay
The pandemic has taught us all who the real key workers in our society are. The social workers who look after the elderly and vulnerable, the NHS workers, the delivery people and the retail workers who kept the goods moving and our economy going have gone through one national lockdown first and then another. We can’t clap for our supervisors for a month and then deny them a raise the next. Incredibly, it looks like the Chancellor is about to freeze the pay of those who work on the Covid frontline. And key employees across the country are still waiting to hear if they will get the £ 10 an hour minimum wage they deserve.
Any move to freeze pay would be another short-sighted and irresponsible decision by this chancellor. Firefighters, hospital porters and teaching assistants will be concerned about making ends meet before Christmas. That means they will spend less money on our main roads, our small businesses and our economy – hit by the worst of the G7 downturn – and not recover anytime soon. Wage freezes have also been disastrous for our public services, leaving them unable to hire the staff they need.
3. Hazy new funding modalities
As a member of the European Union, the UK benefited from EU Structural Funds – the support from Brussels provided by governments here to help narrow the gaps between income, wealth and opportunity across Europe. The government has promised to maintain an equivalent level of funding. That’s a big promise – the EU allocated £ 14.4 billion to the UK between 2014 and 2020.
They said they’ll be doing more of it this week. The clauses in the controversial internal market accounts, which form the legal basis for the new fund, give ministers extensive powers to make payments directly for a variety of purposes. What we will be watching closely is the role of decentralized administrations, the role of local government and the full legal framework. We don’t want to repeat the scandals we saw with procurement. The government is giving money to Tory donors instead of buying the PPE we need.
And here are four things we’d love to see …
1. Urgent measures to retrain and retrain workers
Back in September, our shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds set out the three most important steps Labor could take for a better and more secure future: restoring jobs, retraining workers and rebuilding companies. The Tories have spent months catching up on the priorities they set – and they are still way behind when it comes to retraining workers.
The government funding offer for skills for workers over 25 will not start until April, and by then some people have been unemployed for a year. The “Kickstart” program for younger workers, which our country so desperately needs to be successful, is already behind schedule and is running into problems. The ministers urgently need to clarify this.
We will seek the Chancellor to ensure that the colleges we rely on to deliver training have adequate resources to do the work we desperately need. We also demand that the Chancellor withdraw the malicious decision to scrap the Union Learning Fund, one of the most effective pieces of government spending there is. It is not too late for him to do the right thing.
2. A cleaner future
Infrastructure spending should be about making our economy fit for the future, not Boris Johnson’s fondness for bridges. With the UK employment crisis, we need to invest now in the jobs of the future. Take action now to rebuild the UK, match other countries’ green ambitions, and achieve a clean, job-rich recovery.
Two weeks ago, Anneliese Dodds and Ed Miliband Labors set priorities for a clean, green economic recovery to address the combined challenges of unemployment and the climate crisis, and to promote jobs and growth in all parts of our country. By investing £ 30 billion over the next 18 months and investing that in the clean industries of the future across the UK, we can support at least 400,000 clean new jobs across the country.
3. Assisting the NHS in converting vaccines into vaccinations
The news that the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine is 90% effective and much easier to transport than the other two vaccines to complete the third stage studies was a good start to this week. But as Jon Ashworth rightly said, vaccines don’t save lives, vaccines do.
The government needs to properly fund the NHS to get the vaccine to everyone who needs it, rather than hand over even more money to companies run by Tory donors, companies that don’t really exist, and companies that do Can’t get work done. We have a strong public health infrastructure in this country and the government should deploy it to do the work we need it to do. We assume that the vaccination funding will be announced – but be sure to check out details of the expenses.
4. Local services that work
In September, Keir presented the kind of land we want to build: the best land to grow up in and the best land to grow old in. And that must be true across the UK. In every part of our country we need adequate services that we can all be proud of: children’s centers, schools, leisure centers, youth clubs, post offices and libraries. The local authorities that provide so many of these services, along with the National Health Service and our supermarkets, have been at the forefront of the pandemic, but many of them are running out of money quickly.
There is a huge gap – billions and billions of pounds – between the councils of money that have been used to deal with the pandemic and the money the central government has allocated to it, despite an early promise by Community Secretary Robert Jenrick that “the government stands ready to do everything possible to support the councils in their response to the coronavirus. “If we do not want to see the remainder of the local services provided by the council be severely cut, we need a clear package for the councils on Wednesday.