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Shropshire Star comment: Extraordinary measures for extraordinary times

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has shown himself to be a player for the big occasion.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

His Commons statement sparkled with imagination and innovation, from the Eat Out To Help Out initiative, to the measures to get young people into work, to a VAT cut to help the hospitality and tourism industries find their feet again.

The furlough scheme which he unveiled at the start of the coronavirus crisis has been one of the most remarkable governmental initiatives in British history, providing a safety net for millions of workers.

But this state of suspended animation could not last and the terrible cascade of job losses of the past few weeks has shown that some of those are being furloughed for jobs which are rapidly disappearing.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, was the Chancellor's cry. This was a package to encourage employers to take people on, and to keep people on, incorporating a Kickstart scheme aimed at creating brand new jobs for the 16 to 24-year-olds, who face being among the principal economic casualties of the pandemic.

It has overtones of the job creation schemes of the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s.

The headline-grabbing Eat Out initiative bubbles with creativity as a way of encouraging people to support restaurants, cafes, and pubs, by giving them a government-funded discount on their bill.

These are extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. How Britain manages its emergence from the lockdown will govern just how successful we shall be in recovering from the enormous economic damage of the past months.

The cost of the pandemic to the economy, to jobs, and of course to lives, has been enormous. And there is no getting away from the fact that the bold map towards stimulating the recovery unveiled by the Chancellor will have an enormous financial cost, coming on top of the massive bill already accrued.

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This was a package to attract cheers, and gives some much-needed hope to those watching helplessly as hundreds of thousands of jobs head for the crusher.

Whether this is a bill that will be paid for by future growth has to be in doubt. Spend today, tax tomorrow?

So while we enjoy our half price meals, we should bear in mind that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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