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THE government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is “crashing” the economy and Chancellor Rishi Sunak “cannot afford” to worsen the damage next week, Labour warned today.
The spending and tax Budget for the next financial year is set to be announced by Mr Sunak next Wednesday.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said that her counterpart “faces a choice” between the “short-termist irresponsible policies” enacted by successive Tory governments and “learning from the mistakes made over the last 10 years.”
Opening Labour’s opposition day debate in the Commons, she said: “Our economic recovery is at stake and the Chancellor cannot afford to get it wrong.
“He cannot continue to duck the big decisions, nor to go missing when he is most needed — he must make the responsible choices that have been so frequently lacking over this last year.”
PM Boris Johnson announced his “road map” for leaving lockdown over coming months with a view to lifting the vast majority of coronavirus restrictions by the end of June.
But Ms Dodds said that workers and businesses “face yet more looming cliff edges.”
She said: “We need to stop ordinary families from carrying the can for these mistakes. The Chancellor [is planning] a triple hammer blow to family finances: forcing local authorities to hike council tax, cutting social security by over £1,000 a year and freezing pay for key workers.
“It’s economically illiterate — sucking demand out of our economy at a time when we need it most.”
SNP Treasury spokeswoman Alison Thewliss also pressed for an extension to the furlough scheme, saying: “I agree that withdrawing furlough in April is too early.”
Treasury minister Steve Barclay insisted that jobs will “remain at the heart” of Mr Sunak’s economic plan.
He criticised the Labour motion and defended the economic record of Conservative chancellors, arguing that a “decade of economic success” had enabled the government to borrow during the coronavirus crisis.
Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said: “All of a sudden they now argue that the country can carry these debt burdens, when to do so was apparently utterly ruinous only 12 years ago.
“So their decision to introduce huge cuts in spending since 2010 is now exposed for what it really was: a cynical ideological choice, not an economic necessity.”
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