Labour sought to pile the pressure on George Osborne today following last night’s savaging of the government’s growth record by CBI chief John Cridland.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said John Cridland’s remarks were a “damning indictment” of ministers’ failure to grow the economy, criticising the “part time chancellor and weakened business secretary”, while shadow chief secretary Rachel Reeves said Britain needed “a full-time chancellor 100 per cent focused on getting our economy moving again”.
“John Cridland’s comments today are a damning indictment of ministers’ failure to get growth going, and the chaos and confusion which has taken hold at the heart of government.
“Business is crying out for an effective growth strategy, but ministers’ response has been to tell firms to ‘work harder’, showing how out of touch, and out of step with British business, they have become. The government is refusing to listen.
“We need a proper plan for jobs and growth to get us out of the recession made in Downing Street. Instead, we have a part time chancellor and a weakened business secretary who are refusing to change course from their failed plan.”
While Reeves commented:
“With Britain now one of just two G20 countries in a double-dip recession, the CBI is right to criticise the failure of the Government’s growth policies.
“Our economy has now shrunk over the last 18 months, long-term unemployment is soaring, and so borrowing is now going up. George Osborne has failed to deliver on the promises of extra infrastructure investment he made last year. And bank lending to businesses continues to fall.
“The government’s plan has completely failed. That’s why we need a change of course and a real plan for jobs and growth. And it’s why we need a full-time chancellor 100 per cent focused on getting our economy moving again. Without urgent action now, Britain will pay a very heavy long-term price.”
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Earlier, Cridland had criticised the government’s growth failures in an interview with the Financial Times, who report (£):
The head of Britain’s biggest employers’ group has strongly criticised the government for the “really disappointing” implementation of its growth plan, asking: “Where are the diggers on the ground?”
John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, said members of the government appeared to be “dazzled in the headlights”, resulting in a lack of progress on its growth plan seven months after George Osborne set out his plan to stimulate Britain’s sluggish economy.
Mr Cridland attacked ministers for leaving road improvement plans to gather dust on their desks, for squabbling over renewable energy subsidies and failing to harness private finance to bolster the economy.
“I think it is really disappointing how long it is taking to get momentum and urgency into the growth plan.”
He criticised Justine Greening’s transport department for stalling on the construction of a possible toll road to unblock the congested A14 route, which carries container traffic to Felixstowe.
“On Justine Greening’s desk is an options report from officials following a call for evidence,” he said, adding that this was not good enough: “I was talking about diggers on the ground.”
He said officials seemed “dazzled in the headlights” – a description he applied to an apparent paralysis in Whitehall in other areas of policy.
Mr Cridland said Mr Osborne was locked in a row with Ed Davey, energy minister, over future subsidy levels for renewable energy and wind, creating uncertainty in a sector which needed to think in the long term.
“It’s got stuck in a political row,” he said. “The economics of it are blindingly obvious.” Asked whether he supported Mr Davey’s view that a 10 per cent cut in subsidies for onshore wind was appropriate – Mr Osborne wants bigger cuts – Mr Cridland said: “Makes sense to me.”
However, the FT concludes:
Mr Osborne will draw comfort from Mr Cridland’s support for the government’s overall economic strategy and the ideas contained in his growth plan. The chancellor’s aides pointed out that the CBI was set up to keep pushing the government to do more, faster.
Coming just days after NIESR’s projection of a 0.2 per cent Q2 GDP shrinkage – which, if properly prophecised, would represent three successive quarters of negative growth – and following his ill-judged Spectator interview, it seems the news just gets worse and worse for the chancellor, and, much more importantly, worse and worse and worse for our economy.