We need a £3 billion kickstart in the West MIdlands | Liam Byrne MP for Metro Mayor

After weeks of lockdown we have but a cloudy glimpse of life ahead. But one thing is crystal clear. It's time to stop shambling around and summon our best and boldest to plan for a very different kind of economy for the years ahead.

We are now in the jaws of the largest recession since the Great Depression. The IMF says that the world economy - where we sell our goods - will shrink by by £7 trillion, bigger than the Japanese and German economies put together. Every day of lock down costs our economy some £2 billion in lost output.

A shock of this scale is a community-shattering risk to jobs and it is now forecast it will hit the West Midlands, the green heart of Britain, hardest of all. In the worse case scenario, we may see unemployment double.

So this is no time for mithering or muddling through. We need all hands on deck to organise a kick-start of up to £3 billion in capital spending next year to make sure we save lives - and save livelihoods.

But who wants to go back to what we had before? A carbon-pumping, planet-warming economy of yawning inequalities. No thanks. We don't want a restoration. We want a reformation with a plan that is big, bold and green.

That means using the kickstart to put the heart of Britain, the birthplace of the carbon revolution on a fast-track to zero-carbon. It means a huge expansion of cheap solar energy, a huge expansion in green home-building, converting offices which may not be needed to beautiful affordable homes. It means a big new investment in metro-lines, electric buses and hydrogen trains - and it means speeding up HS2 which could be the single biggest construction project in the region.

Now, as part of this plan we need to make sure that some of the new schemes rushed into place aren’t temporary but become permanent new rights. This is the moment to renew the call made in 1944 by Franklin Roosevelt for a new Economic Bill of Rights to deliver the freedom from fear and want. It was something Churchill signed up too in the Atlantic Charter - and Clement Attlee drove into place when we created social security in 1945.

Today we need to enshrine the right to work into law because if we do not crystallise the emergency wage subsidies into job guarantees for those who ask nothing more than an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, then it will prove impossible to restore consumer demand and get the flywheel of our economy moving again. The TUC has set out exactly how the scheme would work. We need to push the button and make it happen.

The sacrifices made during this crisis are unlikely to be forgotten for the rest of this century. Nearly 28,000 people have lost their lives. More than 100 lives lost in the NHS alone. Workers everywhere have taken pay cuts. Families across the country may have some £20 billion less in their pockets because of the hit to wages.

We must now make sure that these are not sacrifices made in vain. Rather, when we look back through the mists of memory, let's look back at a sunset of the past; a moment when we turned our backs on division and the old ways doing things and struck out boldly in a new fairer, greener direction.

Comments (1)

  • anon
    Jamie (not verified)

    Good to see someone thinking about how we can get through this as a region. Where does the £3 billion figure come from?

    May 11, 2020

Leave a comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.