Brown aims to secure recovery in New Year

Written by Reuters | London | Updated: Jan 1 2010, 04:04am hrs
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday his priority for 2010, an election year, is to secure economic recovery while cutting Britains gaping budget deficit in a sensible and fair way.

In excerpts from his New Year message, released by his office, Brown said his strategy was to go for growth in the economy while reducing the government deficit at a responsible pace.

In a message that appeared aimed at the opposition Conservatives, who want urgent action to cut soaring government borrowing, Brown said: Dont wreck the recovery. The recovery is still fragile, and it needs to be nurtured...We are determined to reduce the deficit at a responsible pace, without choking off the recovery or damaging the frontline services the mainstream majority rely on, he said. Brown said he was confident that if we continue with the tough decisions we have made, unemployment, which has risen to 2.49 million, would start to drop in 2010.

Britains output has fallen by just over 6% since the country entered recession in the second quarter of 2008, the sharpest decline since quarterly records began in 1955. Britain trails most major economies in emerging from recession, although analysts believe growth will resume in the fourth quarter. The downturn has hit the governments popularity. Opinion polls show the centre-right Conservatives on course to oust Browns Labour Party in an election due by June, returning to power for the first time in 13 years.

Brown argues the recession would have been worse if he had not maintained funding for government services and tried to help householders and businesses to withstand the downturn.

The Conservatives say the government must act with more urgency to cut public sector borrowing forecast to hit a record 178 billion pounds ($285 billion) this year or risk losing investor confidence. The argument over investment versus cuts will be central to the election campaign that will get under way in the new year. In a thinly veiled attack on the Conservatives, who Labour accuses of favouring the rich, Brown said: There are some who say we must plan for a decade of austerity and unfairness where the majority lose out while the privileged few protect themselves. I believe we can create a decade of shared prosperity...

Brown said the government would soon publish a prosperity plan, detailing how it would invest in the industries and jobs of the future such as high-speed rail, aerospace, the digital economy, clean energy and advanced manufacturing.

Brown said his first priority for 2010 was securing the recovery while cutting the deficit in a sensible and fair way.

The second is radical reform of our public services while protecting frontline spending on schools, hospitals and the police, he said. His other priorities were cleaning up politics and combating terrorism, he said. A scandal over extravagant expense claims by members of the British Parliament, from all major parties, has shaken voters confidence in politics.