Your editorial on the chancellor’s autumn statement (6 December) points up many crucial questions about Britain’s welcome but weak economic growth. What you do not say is how crucial has been the failure to rebalance the economy. Weaning it away from heavy dependence on banking and finance towards manufacturing, exports and housebuilding was central coalition policy in 2010. Yet recovery is still heavily dependent on consumer spending and rising house prices, largely in London and the south-east. Taken together with recent record fines imposed on the world’s biggest banks for rigging Libor, it seems clear that, like the Bourbons, we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. That annual borrowing is £111bn compared with the original target of £60bn speaks volumes. Moreover, public rage about utlility prices and failure to build sufficient affordable homes show we are finally reaping the harvest of Thatcherite privatisation and council tenants’ “right to buy”. What became of the confident promise that competition between private utility companies would drive down the price of electricity, gas and water? I fear your grim conclusion that the average worker is in for 15 lost years will seem optimistic if the economy suffers another crash caused by continued dependence on unreformed banking and consumer spending.
• George Osborne has a curious idea about his plan “working”. Business confidence? According to the OBR, business investment will have fallen 5.5% in 2013. Tackling the government deficit? His own forecasts expect net government borrowing in the next financial year (£96bn) of double his forecast three years ago. Helping the average wage earner? Retail price increases will climb over the next four years to 4%, leaving average earnings trailing behind again next year. And what about our growth path? With no growth last year to speak of (0.1%) while the world economy grew at over 3%, we are set to continue lagging behind the world for five years. If this is success, what does Osborne think failure looks like?
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