Deal or New Deal?

Bringing forward around £10bn of public spending suggests that the ripples of optimism from the other side of the Atlantic are finally lapping at our shores.


Has the penny dropped? After a couple of desultory months spent throwing money at failing banks and attempting to persuade people to keep shopping, Gordon Brown’s pledge to fight the economic downtown by bringing forward around £10bn of public spending suggests that the ripples of optimism from the other side of the Atlantic are finally lapping at our shores.



Speaking to the Observer this weekend, Brown outlined his intention to embark on a recession-busting package of public works that some have compared to Roosevelt’s New Deal. Transport, communications and green energy initiatives will all, he claimed, benefit from an investment programme that could create 100,000 new jobs and leave Britain in better shape when we finally emerge from the downturn.



Particularly gratifying is the proposed investment in eco-friendly industry, and the apparent acceptance that an environmentally friendly future and short term economic survival are not mutually exclusive.



‘Rather than [the recession] pushing the environment into a lower order of priority, the environment is part of the solution.’ Brown told the Observer.



Indeed, with many climate experts agreeing that the window of opportunity to take effective action is closing fast, the environment must be part of the solution.



So it all sounds tremendously promising. But, as yet there is too little meat on the bones of Brown’s promises to get over-excited about what this means for UK engineering and technology.



So far Brown has been vague on the practicalities – the figure of 100,000 jobs appears to have been plucked out of thin air and the precise nature of the projects that will receive investment is still not clear. Indeed, while numerous reports have alluded to “ten specific energy” projects that Brown is keen to look at, no one seems to know what they are.



There’s certainly no shortage of worthy recipients of such investments: the proposed Severn Barrage, offshore wind and wave generation, new nuclear build and carbon capture and storage schemes would all make The Engineer’s to do list. Let us hope that they figure in Mr Brown’s mysterious top ten.



Jon Excell


Deputy Editor