Anneliese Dodds has argued that the spending review due to be delivered by Rishi Sunak on Wednesday is “the moment to make responsible choices” and criticised the idea of a public sector pay freeze.
In an online speech to Reuters this afternoon, the Shadow Chancellor told viewers that Sunak’s “irresponsible choices and unacceptable delays are damaging the economy” and slammed his “last-minute decision-making”.
Dodds said the public deserves a “responsible approach from their Chancellor” and argued that “Labour would make responsible choices to protect our key workers, secure the economy and recover jobs in every part of the country”.
She also urged the Chancellor to “learn from the damage caused with his last-minute changes to wage support”, adding: “He needs to provide certainty for employers that they’ll be able to keep their staff on.”
Dodds criticised Sunak for making a “last-minute” U-turn earlier this month when the government announced that furlough would be extended, at a rate of 80% income support, just hours before the support programme was due to end.
She added today: “The Chancellor has the chance to take the right, responsible choices for our country. To use public money wisely in support of those at the frontline, so we can be resilient against disease and resilient against economic decline.
“And to face up to regional inequalities with action, not just rhetoric – for a more secure future right across our country – in every region and community.”
She slammed Sunak over reports that he will “unbelievably” propose a public sector pay freeze in the spending review on Wednesday, criticising both the impact on those working on the Covid frontline and for the wider economy.
She said: “Freezing the pay of firefighters, hospital porters and teaching assistants will make them worried about making ends meet ahead of Christmas. That means they’ll cut back on spending and our economy won’t recover as quickly.
“Our high streets and small businesses would suffer. That would mean yet more job losses, when we’ve already seen a record number of redundancies thanks to the Chancellor’s constant chopping and changing.”
Dodds urged that the government “recover jobs” with £30bn capital spending over the next 18 months, immediately bring in retraining for those who have lost their jobs in the pandemic and “rebuild business” with a national investment bank.
Asked for her views on taxation this afternoon, the Shadow Chancellor told those watching: “Now is not the time for government to be proposing major tax changes. Doing that pulls confidence out of the economy.”
Labour’s Dodds also argued against the idea that the government should focus on taxation at the moment, making the case instead that it should be concerned primarily with “maintaining the tax base”.
She added that there is a need in the longer term for a “more progressive tax system” in the UK, but said the Labour Party would be setting out its policy on taxation closer to the next general election in 2024.
She remarked during the Q&A session that “lots of people are looking at the Labour Party again but we’ve got to earn that trust” and emphasised the need to listen to people who have turned away from the party.
On rebuilding trust with the electorate, she said: “Labour has lost a number of general elections. We have to change. We know that. We know that we need to rebuild trust with the public.
“Especially around economic issues but in relation to a number of other areas as well. I think we’ve been very open about that. And, certainly, I’ve been keen since I’ve been in post that I talk directly to people right across the country.”
Dodds added: “We’ve got to have those honest conversations with the public and understand why people might not have trusted us, might have turned away from us over recent years. And make sure that we do something about that.
“That we don’t ignore it. Instead, that we move forward and listen to those people. To make sure that we actually put policies forward that deal with their concerns and that’s what I’m interested in doing.”
Labour published its green economic recovery plan earlier this month, in which it called on the government to bring forward £30bn in capital investment as part of a rapid stimulus package to invest in low-carbon sectors over the next 18 months.
Ed Miliband and Dodds challenged the Conservative administration to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 new jobs as part of a green economic recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.