Labour vows to get economy back on track
By Cat Hage | 10th October 2023
At the Liverpool Labour conference, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves announced the party's plans to fight the next election on the economy, rather than the NHS, with policies to bring in an "era of economic security."
Labour figures said this is a measure of their political confidence and that the party were "ready to serve" and "ready to lead" and that elections were "won and lost on the economy," the BBC has reported.
She unveiled plans to speed up projects like battery factories and 5G infrastructure. She promised to cut waste and drive growth in her speech to the Labour conference. "Responsibility must always come first," Reeves said.
"There is no hope without security, you cannot dream big if you cannot sleep in peace at night."
Ms Reeves said Labour would "wage a war against fraud, waste and inefficiency", including a "crackdown on Tory ministers' private jet habit".
She said that "taxpayers' money should be spent with the same care with which we spend our own money" but that under the Conservatives it had been "treated with disrespect".
She said that labour would seek to "slash government consultancy spending, " adding that the cost of hiring consultants had "almost quadrupled in just six years".
Regarding the northern leg of HS2, cancelled by the prime minister last week, Ms Reeves made no commitments to rebuild the high-speed line but said a Labour government would commission an independent inquiry into the project.
There was also a pledge to increase the national minimum wage "taking into account the real cost of living" without specifying the amount.
Much of Ms Reeves' speech was focused on how Labour would achieve growth in office, saying they would overhaul planning rules to speed up green energy, battery factories and 5G projects.
Under plans announced on Monday, 300 new planners across the public sector would be hired and planning guidance to speed up the process rewritten.
Decision times for major projects have increased by two-thirds since 2012, to four years according to Ms Reeves, and economic growth and net zero considerations need to be factored in.
Ms Reeves also proposed establishing an anti-corruption commissioner aimed at recovering money lost because of fraud and waste during Covid.
At the conference, delegates voted for a motion, proposed by Labour's largest backer, the union Unite, to "reaffirm" the party's commitment to public ownership of railways and the energy industry. Party sources said the proposals were unlikely to get into Labour's next manifesto and told the BBC: "We're not going to nationalise the energy system."
The speech incited far-reaching reactions in response to reforms announced by the Shadow Chancellor.
Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director and vice chair of GfirstLEP said: "I welcome the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves' comments that recognised the central role that business has within the economy.
"She talked about the stranglehold that planning has on business. It is probably one of the biggest obstacles that prevents business growth here in Gloucestershire.
"We simply need a clear structure plan for Gloucestershire that gives companies clear guidance on the availability of employment land. This is a key factor for our growth".
Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "The UK requires planning reform. This is a clear, grown-up policy that will help deliver the infrastructure projects we need to stay competitive, return to growth and stop the curse of chopping and changing. More local planning officers will help small housebuilders and other businesses deliver projects more quickly.
"Strong investment in transport and other infrastructure helps businesses do what they do best - to innovate, grow and provide the jobs and livelihoods central to local communities across the country. Coupled with strong statements on business rates and late payment, this is an encouraging start to the Labour conference as far as small businesses are concerned."
Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "It was encouraging to hear the Shadow Chancellor recognising the central role that business has within the economy.
"The BCC's own research shows that business investment has been flatlining for far too long and we welcome the aspiration to grow the economy by an additional £50bn a year.
"Unlocking our planning system and reducing the vast backlogs businesses face around grid connectivity would certainly go a long way to helping this.
"The commitment to invest more into the green innovation sector, including carbon-capture, windfarms, retro-fitting homes and electric car batteries is also welcome.
"We look forward to seeing more meat on the bones on the mechanics of this large-scale vision to ensure it works at the ground level for businesses."
"While we also welcomed the desire to protect the UK from global supply chain shocks, we would like to hear more about how a Labour government would boost the UK's international trading prospects. Growing the UK's exports in both goods and services is critical to securing our economic future."
Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB Union, said: "Today's speech gave a far-sighted vision of a better UK which shows Labour understands the world has changed.
"As the Shadow Chancellor said, it really matters where things are made and who makes them.
"GMB looks forward to working with a Labour Government to build an industrial plan that puts our country back on its feet."
Rain Newton-Smith, CEO of the CBI, said: "Businesses will be encouraged to hear the Shadow Chancellor speak so ambitiously about driving up business investment and committing to tackle some of the key blockers.
"Unlocking business investment and improving UK productivity is the best route we can take to raising living standards and secure sustainable growth.
"Businesses need certainty and stability in areas like tax, regulation, planning and policy. Businesses will welcome the focus on planning and infrastructure delivery. Speed and accountability need to be at the heart of efforts to reform restrictive planning processes, accelerate grid connections and boost infrastructure capacity - three critical levers for unleashing the business investment we need to deliver sustainable growth across our communities."
Main photo source: @RachelReevesMP
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