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Source: BBC News & The Guardian

Boris Johnson has said now is the time to be “ambitious” about the UK’s future, as he set out a post-coronavirus recovery plan.

The PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

Plans set out in the Tory election manifesto would be speeded up and “intensified,” he added.

Labour and the CBI said he was not focusing enough on saving jobs.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there was “not much of a deal and not much that’s new”.

The BBC’s economic editor, Faisal Islam, said there was “nothing really new” in the plans, but was a pledge from the Treasury to “speed up capital investment that has already been announced and tolerate higher levels of debt”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak later confirmed he would deliver an economic update on 8 July “setting out the next stage in our plan to secure the recovery”.

The PM’s speech came as new figures showed the UK economy shrank faster than at any time since 1979 between January and March.

In a wide-ranging speech in Dudley, in the West Midlands, Mr Johnson vowed to “build, build, build” to soften the economic impact of coronavirus.

He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to “level up” – one of its main slogans of last December’s election – as “too many parts” of the country had been “left behind, neglected, unloved”.

Infrastructure projects in England would be “accelerated” and there would be investment in new academy schools, green buses and new broadband, the PM added.

Projects in the £5bn investment plan include:

  • £1.5bn for hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories, enabling hospital building and improving A&E capacity – the government said this is “new” money in addition to £1.1bn it announced in its Spring Budget
  • £100m for 29 road network projects including bridge repairs in Sandwell and improving the A15 in the Humber region – this money had already been announced
  • Over £1bn to fund a schools building project, as announced on Monday – this cash comes from the government’s existing infrastructure plan
  • A £12bn affordable homes programme to build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years – the programme beings together three pots of money already announced by previous Tory governments and Mr Johnson’s administration

Other projects announced in the government’s Spring Budget, which will now be accelerated, include:

  • £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places.
  • £900m for “shovel ready” local projects in England this year and in 2021
  • £500,000 – £1m for each area in the towns fund to spend on improvements to parks, high street and transport

‘Economic impact’

Mr Johnson acknowledged jobs might be lost because of the economic hit from the pandemic, but said a new “opportunity guarantee” would ensure every young person had the chance of an apprenticeship or placement.

Asked whether the plans went far enough for those who end up unemployed, the PM said the strategy was for “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

But he could not put a figure on how many roles would be created through his plan, adding: “We don’t yet know what the full economic impact is going to be… [but] we will do everything we can to get this economy moving.”

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