In the heart of the Black Country, Boris Johnson unveiled what sounded like a massive boost to our suffering economy which has been battered by the impact of coronavirus.
Millions have lost their jobs with more losses to follow once the government’s furlough scheme ends in October.
There’s no doubt that the recession will be worse than the 2008 downturn.
Speaking in Dudley today, (June 30) Boris declared Britain would build itself out of economic disaster – by ripping up the planning rule book, and giving cash for roads, hospitals, schools, homes and town centres.
There would be a “infrastructure revolution”.
He also promised much needed social care reform and an offer of an apprenticeship or placement for every young person, as he pledged to level up the country -to narrow the huge gulf between the poor and disadvantaged areas compared with wealthier regions.
All sound good in theory but a lot of the money or schemes he announced had already been confirmed in the March Budget.
And one major flaw is the lack of precise detail.
Will tax rises help foot the bill for this spending plan?
There may be more clarity from Chancellor Rishi Sunak during his speech next week.
1. His £12bn housing plan ‘confirmed today’ isn’t new money
The “£12bn affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next 8 years, confirmed today,” was a measure that had already been announced back in March.
Even then, £9.5bn of the £12.2bn pot was new. The rest was cash from ‘long term’ building funds.
The only new information about this part of the PM’s plan is the number of homes that will be built from it – 180,000.
When it was announced in March, the fund was to last five years. Today, the money was to stretch over eight.
But the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government insist nothing has changed with regard to the funding or its timescale.
They say the fund will still be spent or allocated over five years – it’s the building of the 180,000 homes that will take place over eight years.
2. His ‘third off for first-time buyers’ plan only covers 1,500 people so far
Boris Johnson has planned a new “first homes” scheme, which is intended to help people get onto the housing ladder.
It would comprise of a 30% discount.
But there’s very little detail on what the policy will entail – including who the discount will benefit and when it will be available.
Officials also boasted the 30% discount will “remain in perpetuity, keeping them [the homes] affordable for generations of families to own.”
But they have yet to explain how this will work.
One thing we do know about the policy is that it will be available to a very small number of people – to start with, anyway.
Just 1,500 homes will be included in the first ‘pilot’ phase of the scheme.
3. His £5bn plan is not much compared to coronavirus support so far
Boris announced £5bn of spending projects – from schools to hospitals, roads and town centres.
£5bn is a vast amount of money but the spending is nothing compared to the costs of government – and Mr Johnson’s own Covid -19 support packages.
The furlough scheme has already cost more than £25bn and the three main Covid-19 loan schemes for businesses have already cost almost £43bn.
And when it comes to infrastructure, just remember Crossrail will cost around £18bn and High Speed 2 could cost north of £100bn.
Jude Brimble, GMB union National Secretary, said: “Five billion sounds like a lot – but in infrastructure terms it’s just a drop in the ocean. It wouldn’t even meet half the cost of filling in the potholes in England and Wales.”
4. He said ‘build’ 32 times – but ‘jobs’ only 5
The Prime Minister’s speech was called “build build build”
But he was not detail heavy on the 9.3million people whose jobs are at risk after being put on furlough during the crisis.
Boris did admitted many of those jobs “are not coming back” in the post-coronavirus world – “at least not in that form”.
Although he announced an Opportunity Guarantee to give “every young person the chance of apprenticeship or in-work placement”, there were scant details on how much it would cost and what exactly it was involve,
The PM said we should all “clap for capitalists” because “in the end it is their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial for our future success.”
5. His 40 ‘new’ hospitals are not all new
The PM revealed a plan for 40 “new hospitals” will be unveiled in the next few days.
He said: “This government has not forgotten that we were elected to build 40 new hospitals, and we will.
“Matt Hancock is setting out the list in the next few days, and that is just the beginning.”
But the plan was first trailed during the general election when critics pointed out the 40 hospitals are not all new.
The figure includes renovations of existing hospitals and much of it was “seed funding” to get projects going for years down the line.
6. Tearing up planning rules could lead to a rise of ‘horror homes’
Boris said planning regulations would be ripped up to ensue Britain build its way out of the current economic crisis.
The Prime Minister will change the rules to allow more commercial properties, including office blocks, to be converted into flats without the usual planning permission.
He claimed it would stop “newt-counting” by eco campaigners – and “scythe through red tape”.
But the move follows reports about ‘horror homes’ – tiny, cramped homes being created through office conversions.
Last year a building in Ilford ,London was converted into 60 flats – with 42 of them described as “double studios” – but started at under 15 square metres.
And a converted block in Harlow was described as a “human warehouse” in a BBC report
Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire said:
“Slashing planning regulations for their wealthy developer backers, not building good quality, environmentally sustainable and truly affordable housing for workers.”
7. His ‘finalised’ social care plans may not be ready until 2024
The PM said: “We won’t wait to fix the problem of social care that every government has flunked for the last 30 years.
“We will end the injustice that some people have to sell their homes to finance the costs of their care while others don’t.
“We are finalising our plans and we will build a cross-party consensus.”
But these plans already look to be delayed by coronavirus.
Speaking back in January Boris said: “We will bring forward a plan this year and we will get it done within this Parliament.”
But Matt Hancock later refused to guarantee the end-of-year deadline would be met thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. He would only commit to having a plan in place by the end of the Parliament, 2024.
And finally, why did he quietly drop all references to President Roosevelt from his speech?
Ahead of his speech, Downing Street said Boris’ plan was going to be “Rooseveltian”. But any mention of Franklin D Roosevelt was omitted the speech
Roosevelt was the US President who established the New Deal of spending after the Great Depression which decimated the US economy in the 1930s.
But there is little similarity between Boris’ ambitions for the UK and Roosevelt’s.
As well as stimulating the economy after the Great Depression, FDR rewrote the US economic rules for the better.
When the PM gave his speech, the reference to FDR mysteriously vanished compared to the version that was briefed to journalists the night before.