Labour 2012: Ed Balls calls "urgent action" to drive growth
The Shadow Chancellor has called for investment in infrastructure and housing, and has pledged a public sector pay freeze in his speech yesterday.
Mr. Balls was addressing the Labour delegates at the party’s annual conference and delivered a speech aimed at articulating and resolving the 21st century challenges facing Britain.
He attacked the coalition government’s austerity programme, arguing that when fewer people are paying taxes there is little chance to tackle public sector debt and deficit. He said that it's time to invest in infrastructure but approach the challenge with a long term perspective.
The Shadow Chancellor announced a major review of long-term infrastructure plans, led by Olympics Delivery Authority Chair Sir John Armitt.
"We need a comprehensive long-term plan to rebuild Britain's infrastructure for the 21st century, and a cross-party consensus to deliver it,” Balls said. “And at a time when government budgets are tight, we must think innovatively about how we can finance these vital projects over the coming decades, drawing on the private sector and long-term pension savings."
He called on David Cameron and George Osborne to take “urgent action” to kick start economic growth, saying that the stamp duty should be scrapped for two years and 100,000 new affordable homes should be built. The funding for these projects should come from the sale of 4G auctions.
"Let's commit that money from the 4G sale and build over the next two years: 100,000 new homes - affordable homes to rent and to buy - creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and getting the construction industry moving again,” the Shadow Chancellor said. “Add to that a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers, and we can deliver real help for people aspiring to get on the property ladder."
But he also said there would be no spending bonanza if Labour gets into office in 2015. He risked the wrath of the unions by sticking to the Coalition's public sector pay freeze.
The unions have responded as expected by briefing against the Chancellor and the Leader of the Labour party.
Paul Kenny, the GMB union leader, called on Labour to go into the 2015 general election with “leadership” that are not burdened with “past mistakes” in government.