THE UK economy nosedived by a record 9.9%, the biggest slump in modern times, with the contraction in 2020 ‘more than twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record,’ the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday.
Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak responded by reiterating that the books will have to be balanced, and those measures will be set out in the budget, a budget expected to hike up taxes, cut pay, conditions and benefits, while attacking pensions.
Sunak said: ‘Public finances are important and though we have been able to provide the support that we have because of a strong economy and strong finances coming into this, I want to make sure that whenever the next shock hits the country, we can also respond in the same way …’
He was speaking in an interview yesterday morning, responding to a question about raising taxes and balancing the books.
He said: ‘As we have been discussing, my priority is trying to protect as many people’s jobs as possible through this very difficult period and that will remain my overriding economic priority. And we will be setting out the next stage of that out in the budget in early March.’
Asked if life is ever going to return to normal, Sunak replied: ‘I of course understand people’s anxiety and frustration about everything but I think what people would want is for this hopefully to be the last lockdown.
‘What I do feel very good about is the vaccine rollout and I pay enormous tribute to everyone who has been involved in that huge national effort and that gives us reason for cautious optimism. So what the Prime Minister and I are now doing, and I think what people want us to do is to be careful and cautious, to look at all the data that we are getting in, and base our decisions on that evidence, and the Prime Minister will set out that road map in the week of February 22.
‘It is a time of uncertainty, but what I would tell people certainly, on the economic side, our support runs all the way through until Spring.
‘Furlough for example will last to the end of April and we will have a budget early in March to set out the next phase of economic support and that will follow from the Prime Minister’s road map the week before.’