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Britain Needs a Plan for Economic Growth

26/04/2013 09:18 BST | Updated 25/06/2013 10:12 BST

An unprecedented triple-dip recession has been averted, but yesterday's lacklustre growth figures mean our economy is simply back to where it was six months ago.

This continues the overall picture of a flatlining economy in Britain ever since George Osborne's last Spending Review. In fact, this is now the weakest recovery for over 100 years.

The longer this stagnation continues then the longer living standards will continue to fall and the more long-term damage will be done, so the Chancellor urgently needs to draw up a coherent plan for growth.

While the services sector helped drag the economy back into positive territory output in the construction and manufacturing sectors is still worryingly weak. Construction activity alone plunged by 2.5% in the first quarter and manufacturing by 0.3% - despite George Osborne's fast-forgotten pledge to lead a "march of the makers".

Since the Spending Review of October 2010, our economy has grown by just 1.1%, compared to the 6% forecast at the time by the Office for Budget Responsibility. We have been left trailing in the wake of Germany and the US, which have grown by three and four per cent respectively since then.

After nearly three years of stagnation it is no surprise that the IMF said last week the government is "playing with fire" by pushing ahead with their austerity plan while growth is stuck at such a low rate.

So it is time we saw decisive action from the Chancellor to deliver a strong and sustained recovery - including a major programme of affordable house-building and a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed.

Instead we have seen George Osborne swing from the omnishambles Budget of 2012 to the 'do nothing' budget of 2013. Last month the Chancellor stood outside 11 Downing Street and held aloft his red box - but it turned out there was virtually nothing inside it.

Even his party colleagues realise the Chancellor has been distracted by party political games when he should have been concentrating on rebuilding the economy. Just today the Tory backbencher Brian Binley admitted that the government had "been found wanting" over growth and that we could "have sailed to safer, calmer and more prosperous waters had we followed an alternative course".

The result of this lack of growth is that deficit reduction plan has ground to a halt - with borrowing set to be £245billion higher than planned to pay for the mounting costs of economic failure - and Britain has suffered downgrades from two ratings agencies, despite George Osborne setting the retention of the AAA rating as his number one test of economic success or failure.

The result of these economic struggles is more pain for ordinary Britons and businesses. Prices are rising faster than wages and tax and benefit changes since 2010 mean the average family will be £891 worse off this year, according to the independent IFS. Yet the Chancellor is handing millionaires an average tax cut of £100,000 a year. What we need instead is a lower 10p starting rate of tax to ease the squeeze on millions of people on middle and low incomes.

George Osborne has spent three years with his head stuck in the sand and the fear is that he will now complacently ignore calls to take action to kickstart the economy and strengthen it for the long-term. Britain needs a plan for growth, not just a steady slide into a lost decade that drags down real wages and living standards.