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David Hanson MP, Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister, in response to today’s retail sales and public sector finances figures, said: 

“The fact there was some growth in retail sales last month is welcome after the 0.9% fall in February. We will need to see whether this modest growth can be built upon in the coming months once consumers feel the impact of this month’s tax rises and cuts to tax credits on top of the VAT rise already in place. 

“We will also be keeping a close eye on what happens to the borrowing figures over the coming years as the Tory-led Government’s deep spending cuts and tax rises kick in. As last month’s Budget revealed, slower growth, higher unemployment and higher inflation mean the Government is now planning to borrow £46 billion more than they were expecting. That’s a vicious circle because without strong growth and more people in work it’s harder to get the deficit down. 

“The fact is that a year ago, when Labour left office, unemployment was falling and growth was picking up strongly which meant borrowing came in £21 billion lower than forecast. So the UK economy should be growing strongly now. Next week’s growth figures will show what’s happened to the economy in the last six months since George Osborne’s spending review and VAT rise, but before the bulk of the deep spending cuts and tax rises have kicked in. 

“Over the previous six months the economy grew by 1.8%, but all the signs are that George Osborne has now put Britain into the slow lane.” 

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