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OPINION - The Standard View: Without economic growth, there is no escape from the cost of living crisis

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The UK economy cannot get out of first gear. Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows growth was a negligible 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year, with output falling by 0.3 per cent in March alone.

And while the Bank of England now no longer predicts we will go into recession, the reality is that growth is nowhere to be seen. Amid sticky inflation and yet another interest rate rise, it’s little wonder that it feels as if the cost-of-living crisis has no end in sight.

Short-term prospects offer little encouragement. Rolling strikes across the NHS, schools and transport mean people struggle to get a hospital appointment or even get to work. Meanwhile, Brexit is the slow puncture sucking the life out of an economic model long predicated on single market and customs union membership.

International comparisons are instructive. While the US economy is more than five per cent larger than pre-pandemic, and other European nations bigger too, Britain’s economy is smaller than it was at the end of 2019.

The challenge for the Government has not changed — to get the economy moving. The Office for Budget Responsibility upgraded its forecast following Jeremy Hunt’s ‘back to work’ Budget in March, but it is clear that Britain is nowhere near to fulfilling its economic potential. And until we generate growth, it will remain difficult to raise living standards and escape the cost-of-living trap.

Bridging the skills gap

In this challenging economic atmosphere, upskilling and apprenticeships are key to getting young people into work. So the Evening Standard is thrilled to announce that 200 jobless young Londoners have secured jobs or apprenticeships thanks to our Skill Up Step Up campaign.

The scheme, launched 15 months ago in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills, sought to address the mismatch between high youth unemployment in the capital at the same time as widespread vacancies. It did so by tackling the skills gap and helping young people to upgrade their competencies.

Our huge thanks go to our partners, but most of all our congratulations to the hundreds of young people who took a chance, enhanced their skills and are now on track to achieve everything they want in their careers.

Party for all of Europe

This is Ukraine’s party — Britain simply has the privilege of hosting it. The final of the Eurovision Song Contest kicks off tomorrow with Liverpool and the entire country a bit giddy with excitement.

Sam Ryder’s superb performance propelled the UK into second place last year, and this time it is the turn of Kentish Town’s Mae Muller to fly the flag. Long gone (we hope) are the days of nil points — this is Britain’s chance to throw an epic party for all of Europe.

Good luck, Mae — the whole nation is behind you.