UKs coronavirus response deepened recession, top Labour politician says

LONDON — The British government bungled the health response to the pandemic by responding late to the spread of the virus, and then it let the economy dive further than other EU countries because it was still playing catch-up while the Continent had already contained the first wave of infections.

Thats the indictment from the opposition Labour Partys Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, who told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday that her government counterpart Rishi Sunak is also on track to mismanage the countrys recovery by allowing a jobs crisis to balloon unnecessarily.

Dodds spoke in reaction to gross domestic product numbers published Wednesday morning, showing the U.K. economy is in its largest recession on record, having contracted by a record 20.4 percent between April and June. In comparison, France and Germany lost 13.8 and 10.1 percent of their economic output respectively over the same period, according to EU statistics.

“I am very, very concerned by these figures. They suggest that just as with the health response — the U.K. has the highest level of excess deaths in Europe — were also having the deepest recession in Europe,” said Dodds, adding that the scale of the economic contraction “was not inevitable.”

“Weve repeatedly sensed that very obviously, in the public health responses and economic issues, the U.K. is well behind many other countries,” she added.

Dodds urged Sunak to “change course” by providing additional wage support for the most affected sectors such as leisure, hospitality and the aerospace industry, and said that the government needs to put in place a system to track the spread of the coronavirus as soon as possible.

Pointing to the governments £1.57 billion aid program for the creative industry, and the “eat out to help out” subsidy for restaurant meals, Dodds said the Conservatives “seem to have accepted the principle [of targeted help] in some cases, but then theyre not willing to apply it to the wage support thats required.”

Sunak has said he would not extend the furlough scheme because it is impossible to “protect every job.” Instead, the government would focus on retraining workers for jobs in more resilient sectors and provide more apprenticeships for young people, while boosting welfare access for the unemployed.

Dodds said that in her view the biggest part of the hospitality and leisure sector would remain “viable” if a “test, track and iRead More – Source