By Phil Smith
Last week saw Boris’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ scheme announced, intended to kickstart the economy with an ambitious spending spree of nearly £5 billion. The government has christened this plan as Britain’s ‘New Deal’ reminiscent of Roosevelt’s historic scheme created to restore the US economy in response to the Great Depression of the early thirties. The plan includes a wide range of funding for sectors such as health, transport, construction, and our legal infrastructure. While this plan has been praised by many in the conservative party, the criticisms are numerous.
Kier Starmer addressed Johnson’s plan, claiming that ‘Build, Build, Build’ is to focused on infrastructure development and instead should be set up to protect peoples jobs. He further critiqued Johnsons plan arguing that the funding would amount to “less than £100 per person”. Moreover, groups such as the National Trust have noted the damage Johnson’s plan may cause through decreased environmental regulation intended to speed up the construction and planning processes but inadvertently creating conservation nightmares.
Flashy, expensive option
While it is clear that something must be done to nurse our wounded economy back to health ‘Build, Build, Build’ feels like a flashy, expensive option. While infrastructure can contribute to economic recovery as well as providing contracts and employment for the construction industry, the benefits that new schools and hospitals would provide will take years to come to full effect when you factor in the construction time for these projects. Surely a more specific focus on retaining current jobs or extending the furlough scheme further would be of more immediate benefit to working people.
Even with the government furlough scheme in place until October, British business are letting workers go at an alarming rate. Last month saw a 23 per cent jump in people claiming for unemployment benefits, as well as alarming drops in employees on companies’ payrolls. Ensuring that the minimum amount of job losses is incurred because of the virus should be of the upmost importance. The damage of these losses have been highlighted by the ITV Political Editor Robert Peston who explained in a recent interview that the job losses in the service industry would be catastrophic for the UK’s economy as many of these individuals don’t have applicable skills in less affected areas of the economy, making employment outlook for these people very unsatisfactory. Moreover, the BBC reported that Reed, one of the UK’s biggest job platforms, believes that unemployment could be on the rise, to a horrifying 15 per cent.
For the younger generations in Britain the next few years are set to be some of the most difficult that we will experience in our lives, regardless of the success of government programmes or action. With a recession set to be far worse than that of 2008, career prospects have never been more dire. Although it is important to ensure the absolute minimum loss of life by maintaining lockdown rules and easing the return to normalcy slowly, the government needs to do more to protect the employment status of people most vulnerable to redundancy. Those leaving full time education with limited work experience will find themselves in one for the most hostile and unforgiving job markets seen in decades. One can only hope that the government will be able to step up and make sure schemes like ‘Build, Build, Build’ operate effectively and efficiently. However, the bleak track record of Johnsons regime provides little in the way of encouragement.