This week it’s official; Britain is out of recession. There are many in the Labour Party, myself included, that think this is largely attributable to the economic recovery package put in place by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. Meeting recession with brutal cuts would have done very little to help anyone and while it may have been the easier path to take we can be very proud of a leadership that opted for the more complex but ultimately correct approach to tackling hard times.
If the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are the surgeons of the British economy then surely this week was the week Britain took her first post-operative steps. However, as all good doctors know, first steps are not synonymous with a full recovery. While future cuts are inevitable, it is not yet the time to remove the nation’s crutches.
Nowhere is this point more clear than in the construction industry. This week, the Federation of Master Builders predicted that 33% of construction companies still anticipated having to let more staff go. Recovery here is still far from complete.
Indeed, of all the business sectors competing to stave off governmental cuts, it is arguably the construction industry that deserves ring-fenced status. In times of financial hardship nothing should be more important than the provision of high quality affordable housing. The National Housing Federation have stated that a 17.98% cut on the construction sector by government would result in half a million planned affordable homes not being built.
I hope that Mr Brown stands firm on his commitment that the job is not yet done and that investment will not be cut back until Britain is firmly out of recession. Despite statistical improvements in employment rates and GDP, the news from the frontline is that we are not out of the woods yet and, while cuts are coming, the nature and timing of the cuts will determine whether growth continues.