Unions have demanded the government comes up with a Plan B after today’s announcement the economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2011.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This was meant to be the quarter when the UK economy started bouncing back, but that hasn’t happened. You have to go back nearly a century to find a slower recovery from a crash.
“What’s worse is that this is economic self-harm. The government’s deep austerity programme has choked off what was always going to be a slow and difficult recovery. No doubt ministers will try and blame the Eurozone crisis, but these figures date from before the recent difficulties.
“The government must listen to the growing demands for a Plan B that puts growth and fairness first.”
UNISON said today’s dismal growth figures added to the mounting evidence that the government has got it dangerously wrong on our economy. The union is calling on the coalition to breathe life into the recovery by ditching the cuts and taking steps to stimulate growth and recovery – this must include putting money back in people’s pockets to help boost consumer spending.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The evidence just keeps on mounting that the government has got it very wrong on our economic recovery. Public sector cuts are not being offset by private sector growth, and all across the country, people are really struggling.
“Our research shows that many families are thousands of pounds worse off as a result of the VAT increase, indirect tax and benefit changes, and frozen pay at a time of high inflation. Now the threat of a pensions hike could take hundreds of pounds more out of their pockets. This £4 billion tax on public sector workers is economic suicide – we need families to be spending more – not frightened to go to the shops.
“How bad will things have to get before the government sees sense and takes action to stave off economic meltdown?”
UCATT commented on figures which saw construction output fall by 0.6% in the third quarter of the year.
Acting general secretary George Guy said: “The latest growth figures for construction make highly depressing reading. It is clear that the government’s policies are resulting in hard working construction workers being placed on the scrap heap. The government, the industry’s largest client, should understand that construction acts as a barometer for the entire economy. Rather than cutting investment in construction it is essential that additional money is invested to help kick start the entire economy.
“The quickest and most effective way to invest in the industry is to develop an extensive social housebuilding programme. Not only will this provide jobs but it will provide homes for families in desperate need of accommodation.”
Unite said the 05 per cent growth masked the true nature of the crisis facing the British economy, saying the minimal improvement between July and September was disguising what was really happening in the wider economy, such as the failure of the upsurge of promised private sector jobs to take up the slack from the jobs losses in local and central government which may reach 600,000 by 2015-16.
General secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘We should not be fooled by the superficial gloss that ministers will put on this paltry figure of 0.5 per cent. The British economy is still heading towards the rocks of a double-dip recession, unless George Osborne introduces a much-needed Plan B rescue package.
“People are losing their jobs and those that have them feel insecure, so they are not going out to spend in the High Street – the promised boost in private sector jobs to soak up the job losses in the public sector is an illusion masquerading as a truth. It is clear that more demand needs to be injected into the economy urgently.
“The savage cuts to the public sector will hit the local economies in cities and towns across the UK and, as a result, will cause more economic pain to families and communities.
“The government has abdicated responsibility for the wider British economy and it only has one card to play – its much-discredited deficit reduction programme; George Osborne’s manifesto of misery.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused ministers of damaging our economy through a “slavish adherence” to cuts, saying:
“Against a backdrop of the highest unemployment since the Tories were last in office, and people’s living standards being driven down, it is not at all surprising that our economy continues to stagnate.
“This government urgently needs to start creating jobs, instead of cutting them, to lift the public sector pay freeze to put money in people’s pockets, and to abandon its unfair and unnecessary plans to raid the pensions of our public servants.
“Millionaire ministers are dangerously out of step with the lives of the rest of us, and their slavish adherence to cutting public spending is hugely damaging to our economy and risks blighting our communities for years to come.”