Has 'Plan B' for recovery sneaked in under the wire?

Len Tingle
Political editor, Yorkshire

image copyrightbbc
image captionDeputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg chose the Leeds College of Building to announce the Youth Contract

The Deputy Prime Minister chose the Leeds College of Building to announce a billion pound national scheme aimed at getting UK youngsters into vocational training and a job.

The Youth Contract looks remarkably similar to Labour's Future Jobs Fund which the incoming coalition government scrapped as not giving value for taxpayers' money.

I had a similar sense of déjà vu just the month before when I followed him around the Forgemasters' plant in Sheffield.

He told the steel component manufacturer that it has been awarded a £39m government loan to invest in new production plant.


Was this the same Nick Clegg who declared within days of coming into office that Labour's offer of a loan to Forgemasters for virtually identical investment was "unaffordable"?

As U-turns go these are relatively small ones in the context of the huge amounts the government says it must claw back to fill the big black hole in the country's economy.

Nevertheless they are still U-turns.

Nick Clegg is not the only minister who appears to be sticking his hand down the back of the departmental sofa and finding a wad of previously unavailable cash.

Takeaway giveaway

At the Department for Local Government secretary Eric Pickles is offering £100m to councils to help them bring back weekly bin collections.

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image captionEric Pickles is offering councils £100m to help them bring back weekly bin collections

The former Bradford City Council leader will now be known forever as declaring that it is the right of every Englishman to have the debris of his chicken tikka masala takeaway cleared from his dustbin every week.

At £100m that's an expensive giveaway to clear all those takeaways.

Eric Pickles discovered yet another £400m a couple of weeks ago.

He's shared it out between all the new Local Enterprise Partnerships across the UK to invest for growth in their local communities.

'Plan B'

Remember, the LEPs were touted as the organisations which would do a better job than Labour's Regional Development Agencies but without any budget of their own.

Well, between them the LEPs based on the cities of Leeds, Sheffield and York now have around £40m to play with.

It cannot be ignored that Yorkshire Forward, the local Regional Development Agency, had an annual budget of a quarter of a billion pounds of public money.

So is this 'Plan B' being sneaked in under the radar? Or is it just tweaking with the government's original "no alternative" austerity plan.

I write this a couple of days before the Chancellor's Autumn Statement where yet more extra spending plans are expected to be announced.