Coronavirus: PM ‘will not return to austerity of 10 years ago’

The prime minister has pledged his government will “not go back to the austerity of ten years ago” ahead of a speech on Tuesday.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Boris Johnson set out his plans for a post-lockdown economic recovery.

They will include a new taskforce, led by the chancellor, which he says will look at speeding up the building of hospitals, schools and roads.

The economy shrank by 20.4% in April – the largest monthly fall on record.

Amid continued criticism of the way his government has handled the pandemic, the PM said ministers will be “doubling down on levelling up” – spending on infrastructure in order to “build our way back to health”.

“We’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need.

“We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of ten years ago,” he told the paper.

The new Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce will look at major projects in the pipeline and remove “bottlenecks at every step of development and delivery”.

No 10 hopes a building boom will boost jobs and improve connectivity for cities, towns and villages.

The membership of the taskforce, led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be set out in “due course”, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Number 10’s confirmation of an infrastructure drive follows a call by ex-Tory prime minister Sir John Major for tax rises to be avoided while the country looks to get back on its feet.

Sir John said tax rises during the current situation would be a “mistake” and urged the government to borrow in order to exploit the low interest rates available at present.

And former Chancellor Sajid Javid has previously warned against a return to austerity, calling for low taxes on businesses to help the UK’s recovery.