No 10 says Nightingale hospitals set up in response to COVID-19 show it need not “take years to get projects off the ground”.
The government is to launch a new taskforce it says will accelerate the delivery of major projects as Britain tries to find a way out of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce charged with fast-tracking the building of schools, hospitals, roads and even prisons is due to be announced by Boris Johnson in a speech next week.
The group, which Downing Street said would be known as “Project Speed”, will be led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
It will “look across the full range of government’s public investment projects and cut delivery times by removing bottlenecks at every step of development and delivery”.
Mr Johnson – who claimed to be feeling as “fit as a butcher’s dog” following his own brush with COVID-19 – told the Mail on Sunday: “This has been a huge, huge shock to the country but we’re going to bounce back very well.
“We want to build our way back to health.
“If COVID was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences. We’re going to be ready.”
The prime minister also insisted the country would “absolutely not (be) going back to the austerity of 10 years ago” seen under former Tory leader David Cameron, with reports saying Mr Johnson is preparing to announce “tens of billions” of pounds of investment.
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The taskforce will be told there is “no excuses for delays” to building programmes after the UK demonstrated it can move at pace during a national emergency.
Downing Street said the speed at which the NHS Nightingale hospitals were created across the country during the pandemic inspired Mr Johnson to set up the group.
A spokesman for Number 10 had previously insisted the Nightingale hospitals around the UK were “absolutely not” a waste of money, despite admitting they had not been used in a “significant way”.
The government hopes a building boom will boost jobs and improve connectivity as it looks to drive growth.
It comes as reports suggest a further one million people could become jobless – adding to the 2.8 million already out of work – if further government support is not announced by August.
The Observer said new House of Commons library analysis indicates that unemployment levels could soar to levels not seen since the 1980s, tipping past the peak of 3.3 million recorded in 1984 during Margaret Thatcher’s time in Downing Street.
The government said the taskforce’s membership would be “set out in due course”.
It added the prime minister would also be implementing new cabinet committee structures next week “to better reflect his priorities and redouble efforts to drive progress”.
Meanwhile, new data showed the Conservative leader was being out-polled by Labour counterpart Sir Keir Starmer on who would make a better prime minister.
Polling company Opinium found that 37% of voters thought Sir Keir would be better at leading the country than Mr Johnson.
A total of 35% thought the Tory leader was the better option to have in charge.
While Sir Keir had been enjoying a higher approval rating than Mr Johnson for the past six weeks, it is the first time he has polled higher as preferred prime minister.