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UK News

'We want to see those promises being kept': Bishop reacts to PM's £5bn economic recovery plan

by Tola Mbakwe

The prime minister's plan to spend £5 billion on rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus crisis has been met with some apprehension from an Anglican bishop. 

In a keynote speech in Dudley in the West Midlands on Tuesday, Mr Boris Johnson announced a spending spree and a new "opportunity guarantee" to help the economy cope with the "aftershock" of the coronavirus crisis.

Rt Rev Martin Gorick, Bishop of Dudley, told Premier although he's delighted the PM chose Dudley to make the announcement, he doesn't want the promises to be filled with false hope. 

"It's a really big announcement. It's something he needs to say to the people particularly who have been suffering the most. 

"Dudley in particular has been one of the hardest hit parts of the UK in terms of the coronavirus crisis. We suffered anyway through ten years of austerity. We're all in the same storm, as people say, but we're not in the same boat and that's been very, very clear. People living in crowded accommodation suffered particularly during this time. So I think looking back to the election, many promises made, we want to see that those promises now are being kept. So that's going to be key."

Mr Johnson's announcement includes:

- £1.5 billion to be allocated this year to hospital maintenance;
- More than £1 billion for a 10-year school rebuilding programme;
- £100 million to be spent on road projects;
- £900 million for "shovel-ready" local growth projects in England during 2020/21.

Bishop Martin said these are things Dudley desperate for. He said he hopes the prime minster is able to rebuild the trust he's lost with people in the town. 

"I do think we he has to go a long way actually to rebuilding trust in this government and in him as prime minister, trust that they can deliver on really heady promises, he said. 

"We need to pray not just for warm and expansive words, but we need to pray for cool calm thinking, planning and the real determination to deliver for the poorest communities, and especially deliver for some of our young people. 

"They've had schools disrupted, universities disrupted, jobs disappearing…  I think they've got to have a sense that they have a future that the future is greener, fairer, brighter for them. But that will take some hard work."

The Prime Minister acknowledged "it may seem a bit premature to make a speech now about Britain after Covid" given events in Leicester, where a local lockdown has been imposed.

But "we cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis" and the country "needs to be ready for what may be coming".

"We're waiting as if between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap with our hearts in our mouths for the full economic reverberations to appear," he said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery next week, Mr Johnson said.

Listen to Premier's interview with Bishop Martin here: 

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