Boris Johnson to launch spending drive to ‘build UK back to health’
The prime minister will announce a spending blitz next week as he looks to “ready” the country for the “thunderclap of economic consequences” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Laying out his vision for the country’s revival, Boris Johnson will use a speech on Tuesday to announce the creation of a taskforce charged with fast-tracking the building of schools, hospitals, roads and prisons as the UK bids to find a way out of the downturn.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Johnson – who claimed to be feeling as “fit as a butcher’s dog” following his own brush with Covid-19 – said: “This has been a huge, huge shock to the country but we’re going to bounce back very well.
“We want to build our way back to health.
“If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences. We’re going to be ready.”
Downing Street said the speed at which the NHS Nightingale hospitals were created across the country during the deadly outbreak inspired Johnson to set up the infrastructure delivery taskforce, which will be chaired by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
The group will be told there are now “no excuses for delays” to building programmes after the country demonstrated it could move at pace during a national emergency.
Known as “Project Speed” among officials, the body will sift through the blueprints of major infrastructure projects which are in the pipeline and look to iron out any inefficiencies which could hold up their delivery and stall the country’s recovery.
The PM told the Mail the country would “‘absolutely not [be] going back to the austerity of 10 years ago” seen under the former Tory leader David Cameron, with reports saying Johnson was preparing to announce “tens of billions” of pounds of investment.
The government hopes a building boom will boost jobs and improve connectivity as it looks to drive growth after the pandemic.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The coronavirus response has shown that it doesn’t have to take years to get essential projects off the ground. The Nightingale hospitals and ventilator challenge were up and running in a matter of weeks.
“As we recover from the pandemic we must apply that same urgency to the major projects at the foundations of this country and get them done right, to truly level up opportunity across the UK.
“There’s now no excuse for delays. Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.”
The development comes as the Observer reported a further 1 million people could become jobless – adding to the 2.8 million already out of work – if further government support was not announced by August.
The Observer reported that fresh House of Commons library analysis indicated that unemployment levels could soar to levels not seen since the 1980s, exceeding the peak of 3.3 million recorded in 1984 during Margaret Thatcher’s time in No 10.