George Osborne’s austerity had a “positive” effect on the UK’s ability to withstand the Covid-19 pandemic, the former chancellor claimed, which left a lot of people confused.
“Reducing the deficit and placing debt as a percentage of GDP on a downward path was also essential to rebuild fiscal space to provide scope to respond to future economic shocks,” Osborne said.
“I have no doubt that taking those steps to repair the UK’s public finances in the years following the financial crisis of 2008/09 had a material and positive effect on the UK’s ability to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he went on.
George Osborne’s austerity
Osborne said: “Through the [austerity] programme we pursued we created the fiscal space so we could end up spending £370bn to help people deal with the adverse effects that the lockdown introduced.”
Inquiry barrister Kate Blackwell KC asked: “Do you agree by the time Covid-19 hit the consequences of austerity were a depleted health and social care capacity and rising inequality in the UK?”
The ex-Chancellor said: “Most certainly not, I completely reject that.
“I would say if we had not done that Britain would have been more exposed, not just to future things like the coronavirus pandemic, but indeed to the fiscal crisis which very rapidly followed in countries across Europe…”
Harsh or fair?