Government will struggle to pay back Covid-19 debt, George Osborne warns

7 September 2020, 09:27 | Updated: 7 September 2020, 10:31

By Seán Hickey

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer said the government will have a very difficult time in finding ways to pay back the nation's coronavirus debt.

George Osborne told Nick Ferrari that his general view of the government's coronavirus response "is that the government hasn't done nearly as well as it claims it's done, but it hasn't done as badly as its critics would suggest."

The former Chancellor and now Editor-in-Chief at the Evening Standard added that coronavirus was "a completely out of the blue disease that all countries of the world had struggled with," and the UK was caught off guard the same as many other nations.

Mr Osborne told Nick that "the Government is going to have a much much tougher time this autumn because of the consequences of starting to pay for these things", something which he said could make or break public support.

Nick asked what Mr Osborne thought Rishi Sunak needs to do in the next budget as the country comes out of lockdown.

"We're still in the crisis phase," said the former Chancellor, "the biggest single challenge at the moment is unemployment."

Mr Osborne insisted the government response to the pandemic has been satisfactory
Mr Osborne insisted the government response to the pandemic has been satisfactory. Picture: PA

He went on to note that while Government needs to come up with ways to pay back debt accrued from Covid-19, there has to be an effort to help people return to work.

On furlough, Mr Osborne was beaming in his praise for the scheme.

"I think it's been one of the most brilliant pieces of policy making that I've seen from any British government," he said.

On the flip side, the former Chancellor said that a difficult time is coming as the government wind down furlough and there may need to be revisions of the rules as local lockdowns become more a part of coronavirus strategy.

"If you shut down a city again, it seems only fair you reintroduce the furlough again."

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