Boris Johnson: This is the moment to be ambitious

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the country must “use this moment” to fix problems that had been highlighted by the coronavirus crisis.

In a speech in Dudley, the prime minister set out plans for the UK to “bounce back better” and accelerate £5bn on infrastructure projects.

He said the virus had sped up manifesto plans, including on planning reform.

“Project speed” has been set up with the chancellor, who will outline more detail of the recovery plan next week.

Labour says the government has to have a “laser-like focus” on retaining jobs as the UK emerges from lockdown.

Mr Johnson said the government plans to “build build build” to soften the economic impact of coronavirus.

He said planning laws would be streamlined to encourage building. From September, vacant shops will be allowed to be converted into homes without a planning application, as part of the proposals.

And homeowners will be able to build extensions “via a fast track approval process” subject to consultation with their neighbours.

‘Economic aftershock’

During his speech, Mr Johnson said the country “cannot continue to be prisoners of this crisis” and that they are “preparing now, slowly, cautiously to come out of hibernation”.

“This country needs to be ready for what may be coming,” he said, saying there will be an “economic aftershock”.

“We must use this moment now… to plan our response and to fix the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that covid lightning flash,” he said, pointing to the “problems in our social care system”.

He said the government wanted to continue with its plans to “level up” as “too many parts” of the country had been “left behind, neglected, unloved”.

He said the government will not be returning to austerity and the chancellor will set out economic response plan next week.

The prime minister loves a big, historical comparison.

He is a keen student of Winston Churchill – and has even written a book about him.

Over the last few days, the comparisons the government has sought to draw have been with former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “New Deal.”

As my colleagues at Reality Check point out, the plan set out today is a tiddler compared to what FDR did, and a fair chunk of it is re-announcing what we already knew the government was planning.

But Boris Johnson is attempting to set out in a broader context the government’s vision – and his pride in saying he wants to spend a lot to revitalise the economy and haul it out of the doldrums.

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