THE past 18 months have been like nothing we have ever experienced before.
Back in March last year, I remember walking up those famous yellow stairs in Downing Street with the Prime Minister, after being in the job for less than a month, to announce something no other government had ever done in this country’s history — the Furlough scheme.
For the first time ever, the Government was going to pay people’s wages while we kept shops, pubs and cafes shut to protect the nation from Covid.
The enormity of that moment was not lost on me. We stepped in when people and businesses needed it most, and we did whatever it took. And that was the right thing to do.
The UK economy was about to experience the deepest recession in 100 years and many were expecting unemployment to peak at its highest level for 40 years. We needed an unprecedented solution for an unprecedented threat.
And I believe this government rose to that challenge.
Along with the Furlough scheme, our Plan for Jobs — which saw £400billion pumped into the economy to families and businesses when they needed it most — is the largest peacetime support package ever created.
Our Plan for Jobs kept 2m people in work
Over 11million people across the UK were supported through the Furlough scheme, and our Plan for Jobs has meant that two million fewer people than expected have lost their jobs.
That’s two million families protected from unemployment and the uncertainty and instability that comes with it.
We provided Government-backed loans to thousands of businesses, grants and tax cuts to thousands more, and together with the resilience of the British people our plan has worked.
Now unemployment is less than half what most were predicting it would be, our economy is on the mend and wages are rising.
There are positive signs that we’re on the road to recovery — but we cannot be complacent.
Right now, we are seeing global challenges following the pandemic, we are seeing economies in flux, not just here but right around the world.
Demand for goods, energy and labour is increasing faster than economies around the globe can meet.
I know that families here at home are feeling the pinch of higher prices and are worried about the months ahead.
But I want you to know, we will continue to do whatever it takes, we will continue to have your backs — just like we did during the pandemic.
And while we cannot solve these problems overnight, I’m determined to meet these challenges head on, with the same grit and determination this great nation has shown throughout the pandemic.
On Wednesday, I will deliver a Budget and Spending Review that delivers on this and on the priorities of the British people. A Budget to support businesses and working families.
A Budget to invest in public services, invest in growth, and invest in jobs.
We’ve already pledged £36billion over the next three years into our NHS and health and social care system and we’re going to deliver on the people’s priorities by building more hospitals and schools and recruiting 20,000 new police officers.
And this Budget will make the most of the freedoms we have now we have left the EU — from freeports across the UK to ensuring our regulatory and tax systems are nimble, innovative, and suit our needs.
But I know the pressures and anxiety people are facing as we go into the winter, whether it be food on the table for their kids or paying the bills to keep the heating on.
Which is why we are providing a new £500million fund to support those who most need help over the winter.
And while unemployment is far lower than predicted, we cannot stop here.
If we want to build a stronger economy fit for the future, a country free and ambitious to make the most of the opportunities we have, we need to do more — much more — to boost people’s skills and ensure they can get a better job which pays them a higher wage.
This is crucial to the high wage, high skill, high productivity society which we want to build.
In the short term, that’s about giving those who need it the most the help to progress in their careers.
That’s why I pledged a £500million expansion to our Plan for Jobs at the start of the month, to expand our apprenticeship, Kickstart and Restart programmes.
And that’s why today, I am building on that plan and announcing a further £3billion package to start a skills revolution and to provide life-changing opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people to get the skills they need.
But it’s also about lifelong learning and giving people the autonomy and the skills their need to succeed.
We know that improving numeracy skills can increase your pay cheque by 14 per cent and reduce joblessness by half, which is why our brand new Multiply scheme will ensure every adult, whatever age, has the maths ability they need.
We will ease pressures on the cost of living
These are the ingredients we need to build a bright future for the British people.
But we also need a strong and resilient economy.
Coronavirus has meant our economy has taken a hit. And in order to recover strongly, we need to be responsible because everything comes at a cost.
And the money we spend is yours, the taxpayer’s money, not anyone else’s.
Earlier this year, I said I would be honest with the country about the challenges we face to ensure our public finances get back onto a strong footing.
And the experiences of the last 18 months have made me more certain of how important a strong and resilient economy is.
That is why this week’s Budget and Spending Review will set out a plan to deliver the people’s priorities, support business, help our recovery, ease pressures on the cost of living but also to strengthen the public finances — so we have a stronger economy for the British people.
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