Chris Leslie: Britain needs more growth, less political games

Shadow financial secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie writes for ITV News on Labour's response to the Chancellor's Spending Review.

Chris Leslie is a Labour MP for Nottingham East. Credit: PA

This was a Spending Review that George Osborne didn’t want to happen.

But just two years after pledging that he didn’t need to “come back and ask for more”, falling living standards and Britain’s flatlining economy means the deficit is not coming down.

That is why the Chancellor was forced to come back to announce more cuts to our public services in two years’ time.

And yet there was still nothing to turn around the economy or falling living standards either this year or next.

After weeks of wrangling with his Cabinet colleagues George Osborne still has no idea about how to stimulate jobs and growth.

Instead he has taken a knife to the one area most likely to get the economy moving again: buried in Treasury documents is the grim truth that infrastructure investment will fall in real terms by 1.7 per cent, or nearly £1 billion, in 2015-16.

What Britain needs is action to boost growth now rather than more of the Chancellor’s political games as he builds up to the next general election campaign.

Britain is being left behind in the global race with our economy growing by just 1.1 per cent, compared to the six per cent forecast at the time of the coalition’s first spending review in 2010.

Over the same period the German and American economies have expanded by 2.9 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.

And just weeks after Ed Miliband called for a cap on structural social security spending, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have concocted their own “cap”.

But their record in this area doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – the Government is already spending £21 billion more than planned on social security because of its failure on the economy.

The Chancellor delivers his Spending Review announcement to the Commons on Wednesday. Credit: PA

On tackling the deficit as a whole – the very reason the coalition parties say they had to come together – they have failed spectacularly.

Borrowing is now forecast to be £245 billion higher than planned at the time of the last spending review because they have failed to get the economy to grow.

These terrible figures were barely mentioned today. Yet they show how the Chancellor is coming up short on his key tests.

It was not so long ago that he built up Britain’s triple-A credit rating as his first economic benchmark – and then suffered the indignity of a downgrade from two ratings agencies.

Today was a chance for George Osborne to finally change course and put the British people before his own dogmatic approach to running the economy.

Instead, after three years of failure on the economy, living standards and cutting the debt, all he could offer was more of the same.

It will now fall to the next Labour government to turn the economy round and take the tough decisions we need to get the deficit down in a fairer way.

  • Chris Leslie is Labour's shadow treasury minister. His views do not necessarily represent those of ITV News