That will be the central message of the speech that the Prime Minister will deliver next week as he sets out the shape of his plan for the recovery.
Inevitably now billed by the media as a re-launch of his premiership after recent missteps, the truth is that embryonic plans for this moment actually predated the wobbles of the past month. The measures emerged in the first half of May as the Chancellor drew up early plans for interventions of his own, motivated by twin fears of mass redundancies as furlough was phased out and low consumer demand as people emerged from lockdown with money in their pockets but apprehension about the future.
The first of these fears will crystallise into the guts of an attempted one-two punch by the PM and then the Chancellor to kickstart the recovery period. The roadmap out of the lockdown will be replaced by one for the rebuild, structured around commitments on infrastructure, skills, retraining, new industrial technologies and improvements to the planning regime. Amidst the policy will be some politics too: a promise to make this recovery fairer than the one that followed the Financial Crisis will be at the heart of the PM’s pitch.
On the second fear – consumer demand – the decision on whether to take the plunge on a VAT cut is still being weighed up. There is political appetite for it but there are legitimate considerations around when would be the optimal moment to introduce it and when would be the most dangerous time to have to reverse it. After all Gordon Brown is not remembered for introducing the 10p tax band but the abolition that followed. If those concerns look founded, the plan may be shelved until the autumn. But if they prove nothing more than cover for more conventional arguments from Treasury bean counters about increasing debt, then expect the Chancellor to press ahead with the tax giveaway next month. In either case, other than potentially VAT, fiscal measures will wait until the autumn when the shape of the recession is clearer.
Putting flesh on the bones
For weeks ministers have been asking civil servants to reach out to user groups, regional authorities and government agencies, to find projects that will inject the cash into the economy. Their target clearly aiming at the coming weeks and months, so they can urgently lift the levels of employment and set the agenda for the coming years. Rebalancing the divide across the country would also provide a legacy for Boris Johnson.
Shovel-ready infrastructure and regional spend will lead a list of stimuli to help the UK bounce back. But not all decisions will provide the results that they expect. Keep an eye out for the favourite failed projects of agencies and councils that have been around for years. With little time to turn round spending bids, and scrutiny not being as strong, we are likely to see the return of programs that have not been through their planning cycle and could therefore take years to deliver, or be shelved in the months ahead as money gets tighter.
Already we have seen injections of transport money brought forward to relieve pinch points on roads, improve bus infrastructure and make it easier for people to cycle to work. Some planned railway schemes will be easier to deliver while passenger volumes are low and will improve journeys when passengers return. However, there are also projects which will continually have been brought to the attention of ministers but may get lucky this time round. Local authorities have not had the spare cash to work up schemes in the austerity years meaning the pipeline of fresh options is low. Meanwhile, new hospitals still have a long way to go from design to ribbon cutting.
The announcements will give businesses a range of opportunities to partner on the delivery of schemes. Yet care is needed: while value for money rules will be loosened in order to get the schemes off the ground this could store up headaches for the future. As with everything around the Coronavirus response, the scrutiny will ultimately be intense.