Anneliese Dodds criticises 'cavalier' pandemic spending

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Anneliese Dodds says the government should be “focussed on job, job, jobs” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has accused the government of mismanaging billions of pounds spent in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a speech to party members on Monday, she accused ministers of a "cavalier" approach to public spending during the crisis.

But she called for firms in struggling sectors to get extra support to retain workers, or provide training.

The government accused Labour of offering "recycled" economic plans.

Ms Dodds called for a change in approach to managing the economic downturn during a speech to Labour's online conference, which ends on Tuesday.

She unveiled proposals for a jobs recovery scheme targeted at sectors that have been closed or on reduced capacity because of social distancing rules.

What's different about Labour's conference?

The party's annual four-day gathering looks a lot different this year.

The event, rebranded as Labour Connected, is taking place entirely online rather than in a conference venue.

As a result, there will be no scenes of packed halls and delegates hoping to speak waving items of clothing and other props to try and get themselves noticed.

Policy won't be decided on the floor of the conference but there are members' discussions and policy panels - on issues such as the future of work, communities, support for young people and the green economy.

There is the usual packed fringe programme and there will also be speeches, which will be streamed online.

As well as Anneliese Dodds, we'll also be hearing later on Monday from shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds. Each speaker is expected to use Labour's recently unveiled New Leadership slogan as their backdrop.

You'll have to wait to hear more about leader Sir Keir Starmer's keynote speech on Tuesday, although - unlike his address to the TUC last week when he was self-isolating - he won't be speaking from his own home.

In a bid to stem job losses, she also called for £3bn in funding to be brought forward to retrain the unemployed or those at risk of losing their jobs.

She urged ministers to provide additional support to viable but indebted firms due to start repaying government loans from next spring.

'Ambitious Labour vision'

And she vowed to "restore trust" with the private sector, adding that she understands the "critical role business plays in creating jobs".

"Recover jobs, retrain workers and rebuild business. Three steps to a better, more secure future," she said.

"This is an ambitious Labour vision - where security and fairness aren't just aspirations, but where they are a reality for families and communities across our country."

Image source, PA Media
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Labour has called for the furlough scheme to be extended in sectors such as hospitality.

In her first conference speech since being appointed shadow chancellor in April, Ms Dodds also accused the Conservatives of mismanaging public funds in response to the crisis.

She pointed to actions, including the recall of unused testing kits and a decision not to use 50m face masks bought for the NHS, as examples of waste.

She also unveiled party analysis which claims the government's job retention bonus scheme will hand £2.6bn to firms who would have retained staff anyway.

"You're only as cavalier with public money as our current chancellor, if you don't know the value of it," she said.

"As chancellor, I would ensure that public money was always spent wisely. Targeted where it's needed most. Not splurged where it isn't."

'Unrelenting pressure'

Labour has previously called for the scheme, which will pay firms £1,000 for each employee brought back from furlough and employed until January, to be reviewed.

The CBI said it agreed that a more targeted approach was needed but it could not be overly bureaucratic as firms needed "simple and quick" solutions.

"Labour clearly recognise the unrelenting pressure firms are facing," the employer group's chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.

"All parties agree that saving good jobs today is far better than picking up the pieces tomorrow. That needs bold action as the UK heads into a challenging autumn."

For the government, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said Labour was offering nothing more than former leader Jeremy Corbyn's "recycled economic plans".

He said they would hold the UK back and "hinder our recovery from coronavirus".

"This Conservative government is getting on with delivering its plan for jobs - creating, supporting and protecting employment across every corner of our country," he said.