Osborne under fire for lack of reforms

CHANCELLOR George Osborne yesterday came under renewed pressure to define his economic vision as critics from all sides rounded on the government’s record on promoting growth.

Statistics due out on Wednesday are expected to show that the UK economy has shrunk for the third successive quarter, raising questions about the stalling financial recovery.

To make matters worse for Osborne a poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday found that 44 per cent of those surveyed believe that the chancellor should be sacked.

But crucially voters also said that they did not trust shadow chancellor Ed Balls to be any better at the job.

John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, yesterday told City A.M. that it was time for the government to “stop doing the same things again and again” and instead “think up new innovative solutions” to boost growth.

Proposing a major programme of infrastructure investment, Longworth also said there is a pressing need to provide access to capital for small and medium size businesses by setting up a government-backed business bank.

“We have seen the number of companies exporting go up but while British business is getting out there and busting a gut to export what is the government doing to help? Companies can’t sustain this growth and expansion because they can’t raise the working capital.”

A growing number of voices are also calling for a shift to a radical free-market approach. Mayor of London Boris Johnson fuelled the chancellor’s woes by adding to the calls yesterday.

“I’d like to see a bit more supply side stuff,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, mentioning encouraging private infrastructure investment and also “allowing businesses to take on staff more easily”.

The head of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Mark Littlewood, suggested that Osborne’s loosening of Sunday trading over the Olympics was insufficiently bold, saying: “Letting people buy what they want, when they want should not be seen as an amazing treat.”

Matthew Sinclair, the head of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, agreed: “Politicians should make these changes permanent to help retail business and their customers.”

On Saturday ex-chancellor Lord Lawson told Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that Osborne should give up his role as head of party strategy and focus on his Treasury work: “I think his last budget was not his biggest success but I think he should continue in that job. But I do think that it would be sensible for him to set aside his second job.”