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Building Green Inclusive Growth: Where to Start

Remarks to CPP Inclusive Growth Conference Wed 20 October 2021. Charlotte, thanks so much for bringing us together. We’re so proud in the APPG on Inclusive Growth to be your parliamentary wing. Our big task today is to stop a pandemic of disease triggering a pandemic of poverty that makes inclusive growth this century impossible. At the Annual Meeting last week, the IMF said the global economic impact of the pandemic has been some $17 trillion between 2020 and 2024. But this crisis is not over. Bad policy choices in the months ahead could cost us an additional $5 trillion of lost output that will without doubt hit the poorest hardest. What is true for the world is true for the UK. The wealth of billionaires has risen sharply in the crisis. Alongside poverty rates which have been rising for years. In cities like mine we have a vaccination gap of 50% between the least vaccinated wards and the richest. And with rising prices and cuts to Universal Credit things are set to get harder still. Ten years ago, after the great financial crash we were determined to nurture growth, avoid a double dip recession and make sure inequality did not rise. George Osborne made every single one of these mistakes. Rishi Sunak needs to learn from this with a recovery plan animated by a vision of genuinely building green inclusive growth. So where do we start? We start with education. Key to any hope of equality or social mobility. You’ll have seen the gap between public and private education is now a gulf. That’s some £6,500 per pupil. The IFS tells me to close that gap would cost an incredible £55 billion. That money is unlikely to come forward next week. Which is why we call for an increase in the pupil premium to at least begin making progress. Second, health. We’ve already seen rises in life expectancy stall. Now we see the pandemic of disease has created a pandemic of mental health issues. It is estimated that up to 10 million people in England will require new or additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic Yesterday, the Duchess of Cambridge launched the action on addiction campaign to help. The Government now needs to step up and do its bit: safeguarding at the very least community public health budgets. The pandemic has not been equal. Some places are hit harder than others. The government has now realised we need a creative state and I’m delighted to say they had appointed our co-chair George Freeman to help lead this work. But a creative state is not a centralised state. Yet the most centralised state in living memory is what we have. Friedrich Hayek would be looking on aghast. That has to change which is why we call for total place like devolution of flexible spending to local areas. Let’s throw into the pot, the ‘shared prosperity fund’; the £100m National Retraining Scheme; the National Skills Fund; the apprenticeship budget and the Adult Education Budget – for starters. There are now just 10,500 days between the pandemic and the deadlines of the Paris Agreement. Ten and half thousand days in which we have to hold down temperature and wind back inequality. There has never been a harder time to be a policy maker. Which is why events like today and so important and so welcome.


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