Labour conference: Ed Balls promises Labour government would launch massive construction programme for Britain to build its way to economic recovery

The shadow Chancellor also tore into the Coalition for presiding over a return to recession by cutting too deep and too fast and for failing to invest in economic renewal.

Plans to help a future Labour government “rebuild Britain for the future” will be drawn up by the man who ensured the successful delivery of the London Olympics, Ed Balls told the Labour conference today.

Ed Balls invoked the spirit of 1945 today as he promised that a future Labour government would mount a massive construction programme to help Britain build its way to economic recovery.

The shadow Chancellor was scathing about the Coalition’s “failing economic plan”, but he warned his critics – including trade union chiefs pressing Labour to support pay rises – that the party would not embark on a “post-election spending spree”.

He said the Labour post-war Government had taken “tough and unpopular” choices, including the decisions to continue rationing and introduce prescription charges, but remained focused on the task ahead.

To applause from delegates at the Manchester conference Mr Balls added: “They learned from history and rejected the failed austerity of the 1930s.”

Where the 1945 Attlee government created the National Health Service and built “homes for heroes”, the shadow Chancellor envisaged a programme of investment in the national infrastructure designed to create jobs and produce economic growth.

He cited the need to roll out super-fast broadband across the country, replace the “antiquated” National Grid, invest in nuclear and renewable power, improve flood defences, replace or reinforce the Thames Barrier and boost rail and airport capacity.

Mr Balls announced that Sir John Armitt, the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, would set up a commission to advise Labour on the feasibility of such projects.

He admitted that previous major construction schemes, such as the Channel Tunnel rail link and the Crossrail line in London, took too long under the last Labour government to be completed.

And he pointed to the Coalition conflict over whether to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport as proof of the need to reach national agreement on such schemes.

“We need a comprehensive long-term plan to rebuild Britain's infrastructure for the 21st century and a cross-party consensus to deliver it,” he said.

Mr Balls had a sobering message for union leaders when he hinted that an incoming Labour government could accept the overall spending limits it inherited from Chancellor George Osborne.

He told the conference: “We must be upfront with the British people that under Labour there would have been cuts and that – on spending, pay and pensions – there will be difficult decisions in the future from which we will not flinch.”

He said: “The longer this Government staggers on with a failing economic plan, the worse it will get and the harder the job will be. Hard times will last longer than all of us hoped. And we cannot promise to put everything right straight away.”

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, and Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, attacked the Labour leadership for backing the Government’s public sector pay freeze.

Mr McCluskey said there should be no “false choice” between jobs or wages and was given a standing ovation at the conference as he challenged the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to “come out of the shadows” and embrace a “radical alternative” to the Coalition.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all