PM's 'New Deal' to make Britain 'stronger than ever' revealed in Black Country visit
Boris Johnson vowed that Britain would "build our way back to health" as he came to the West Midlands to announce the fast-tracking of £5billion of major projects.
The Prime Minister spoke of his Roosevelt-style 'New Deal', which he said would enable the UK to be "stronger than ever before" following the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at Dudley College's Advance II campus, he said he was more committed than ever to delivering his pre-election pledge of "levelling up" Britain and helping areas including the West Midlands to thrive.
Mr Johnson said: "Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis.
"And so I want you to know that this Government not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and level up – the mission on which we were elected last year."
He said the Government would be bringing forward capital investment projects including £1.5bn for hospital maintenance, £100m for a series of road projects, more than £200m for maintenance to courts and prisons, and £1bn for the first 50 projects of a 10-year school rebuilding programme.
All of the schemes have been previously announced.
The PM said: "This is a Government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades.
"To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up.
"To that end we will build build build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires."
Vowing to support job creation and skills in the aftermath of the pandemic, he added: "If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health.
"We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before."
The PM was joined at the college by Dudley North’s Conservative MP Marco Longhi – who posed for pictures with the PM and a Black Country flag – and council leader Patrick Harley, as well as West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
Mr Johnson chatted to construction apprentices and went on a tour of the campus.
During his visit a group of five Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the college on Priory Road.
They were briefly met by a counter protest, featuring one man shouting: “You’ve got it wrong... all lives matter!”
He was ushered away by security officers.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is next week expected to provide an update on the UK economy, which shrank by a record 20.4 per cent in April, the first full month of the lockdown.
Mr Johnson’s speech was watched by an audience of just 24 people including a handful of journalists.
In response to criticism about the scale of his intervention, the Prime Minister said it was a “speeded up, intensified and increased” version of manifesto pledges.
The Prime Minister also faced scrutiny over an apparent cut in the affordable homes programme – which had been promised as £12.2 billion over five years at the Budget in March but is now being stretched over eight years.
CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said a “jobs-first recovery” and infrastructure investment could help limit the economic damage.
But she added that “the reality is that longer-term plans will falter without continued help for firms still in desperate difficulty”.
Nick Jones, head of labour supply at Walsall-based firm Fortel, which supplies construction industry workers, said: “For people in the West Midlands, now is the time to utilise the support around employment and training to get ready to fill these positions and help bring this plan to life.”
West Midlands economist Dr Steve McCabe, from Birmingham City University, welcomed Mr Johnson’s plans, but called for focused investment in the construction sector to secure existing jobs and create skilled employment opportunities.
He said: “It’s infinitely better to keep people working than to pay them unemployment benefit of less than £100 a week.
“This will simply cause the economy to remain stagnant for much longer than might otherwise be the case.
“The short-term cost, considerable as it is, is preferable to the destruction and social chaos that will accompany a long economic depression.”
Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb said the plans would help people to get “back on their feet” following the lockdown.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Prime Minister promised a New Deal, but there is not much that’s new, and it’s not much of a deal.
“We are facing an economic crisis – the biggest we have seen in a generation – and the recovery needs to match that.
“What’s been announced amounts to less than £100 per person, and it’s the re-announcement of many manifesto pledges and commitments.”