The consequences of shutting down one of the world’s great economies overnight were going to be cataclysmic and the record 20.4 per cent slump confirms this.
But it could have been even worse if Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, who only became Chancellor weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic struck Britain, had not acted so decisively – a welcome contrast to the dithering of some Ministers.
And while there are genuine concerns that businesses promised loans, and other support, have still to receive assistance, Mr Sunak’s pioneering policy of ‘furlough’ – effectively the state subsidy of wages – did buy the country time.
Now this time has to be put to use, namely rebuilding the economy, getting people back into work and reopening schools, rather than debating whether a marginal difference to jobs could have been made if the Chancellor had acted differently. Here Mr Sunak should draw inspiration from the ingenuity of Yorkshire’s innovators and inventors who say the longer-term focus needs to be on investment and infrastructure.
They’re right. Ministers can’t micro-manage every store or businesses reopening on the high street – local leaders have to play their part as the lockdown is eased back
But, by bringing forward plans to invest in the UK’s infrastructure, Ministers are, in fact, supporting local communities by demonstrating their confidence in Britain’s ability to bounce back swiftly from the sharpest recession in history.
And it is to be hoped that Mr Sunak chooses now to embrace the expertise that exists in Yorkshire and empowers industrialists – people who also steeped in logistics – to get Britain back on its feet as expeditiously as possible.
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