Boris Johnson will today launch a valiant defence of London’s dominant position in the UK, telling the Conservative party conference that the capital’s success is crucial for British economic growth.
He will also seek to boost his party’s morale in the face of recent defections to Ukip, warning Conservatives against jumping ship.
Johnson is expected to use his keynote speech in Birmingham to say that far from sucking life out of the rest of the UK, figures show London’s boom is the driving factor behind growing GDP and tumbling unemployment across the whole of the country.
The mayor’s defence of the capital, and his rejection of the notion that London is racing ahead at the expense of cities like Manchester and Glasgow, comes in the wake of pledges from the main party leaders to reduce the size of London’s economy relative to the rest of the UK.
In June, David Cameron hailed a new round of so-called local growth deals, adding: “For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised.”
In his own speech at the conference yesterday, chancellor George Osborne again promised to support the UK’s “northern powerhouse”, while Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to create “regional economic powerhouses” if elected. By contrast, Johnson will cite specific examples such as a regional brick factory that has been boosted by orders from London.
Johnson’s speech comes after Osborne yesterday revealed a series of freezes to benefits payments in a bid to cut the government’s huge budget deficit without raising taxes.
The chancellor said he will freeze working-age benefits for two years if the Conservatives are re-elected in 2015 as he looks to save £25bn. The policy will hit 10m families, including 5m so-called working poor, and is set to raise £4.8bn over two years for Treasury coffers. Osborne is expected to look for further cuts to the welfare bill in the coming months, to make up a potential £12bn in savings.
The freeze will apply to most benefits that are currently capped at a one per cent increase but will also include housing benefit. A number of benefits will be excluded, most notably pensioner benefits and disability benefits, as well as maternity and paternity pay and the carer’s allowance.
Alongside the announcement Osborne pledged to hit technology companies that use the so-called double-Irish arrangement to pay less tax in the UK. The move will build on international agreements between G20 nations. Both measures will form part of the party’s manifesto for 2015 and were revealed alongside the abolition of the 55 per cent pensions death-tax, which will be included in the Autumn Statement.
Today the Prime Minister is also expected to announce plans to extend GPs’ opening hours over the next five years, pushing the family doctors to offer surgeries seven days a week, as well as consultations via email.