Boris Johnson has suggested he will not impose fresh spending cuts on Britain’s public services once the coronavirus crisis passes.
The prime minister said austerity will not be “part of our approach” once the pandemic has subsided, amid warnings that the shutdown of vaste swathes of the UK economy will lead to ballooning government borrowing.
The Office for Budget Responsbility said yesterday that the unprecedented round of state intervention to shield the economy from the impact of coronavirus will cost the Treasury more than £100bn in extra borrowing this year.
And earlier this month, it predicted that overall borrowing could rise to £271bn this year – five times higher than the March forecast outlined by the OBR before the pandemic took its toll.
But, speaking during yesterday's Downing Street press conference, the prime minister hinted that he would not copy the deep public spending cuts imposed by David Cameron and George Osborne in the wake of the late-2000s financial crisis.
Asked whether he would follow a path of austerity, Johnson said: “You know what my instincts are – I think the economy will bounce back strongly.
And he said: “I think this government will want to encourage that bounce back in all kinds of ways, but I’ve never particularly liked the term that you’ve just used to describe government economic policy and it’s certainly not part of our approach.”
The suggestion that Johnson will shun spending cuts in an attempt to balance the books after the crisis came after he vowed to set out a “comprehensive plan” next week to signal how to get the British economy “moving”.
The PM has been under pressure, both from Labour and some of his own backbenchers, to signal to businesses when they may be able to return to work as part of a lifting of the nationwide lockdown.
But Johnson – who also said yesterday that said Britain was on the "downward slope” of the outbreak – warned: "What you’re going to get next week is really a roadmap, a menu of options.
"The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying.”