Sunday, October 11, 2009

PM to announce £16bn sale of assets

The Government is to stage a £16 billion asset sell-off as part of moves to stabilise the public finances, Gordon Brown is set to announce.

The Prime Minister will give details of an initial round of disposals that could raise £3 billion over the next two years - including the Tote, the Dartford crossing, the Channel Tunnel rail link, and the Student Loan book.

Much of the rest of the funds will be realised by encouraging local authorities to exchange assets for cash.

The plan comes as Mr Brown seeks to persuade voters that he has a better alternative to the immediate spending cuts proposed by the Tories.

At a seminar in London, he will warn that premature curbs risk "snuffing out" the economic recovery before it has got under way, and insist strong growth is the best solution to public debt.

"We need a deficit reduction plan that supports growth and jobs not one that snuffs out recovery before it has started," the premier is to say.

Outlining his plans to sell a "portfolio of non-financial assets" held by Whitehall and local authorities for some £16bn, Mr Brown will indicate that he wants government to focus on "what it does best".

He is to say that such action is key to Labour's "clear and credible" plans for halving the deficit over the next four years.

Aides said the sell-off marked the beginning of a "radical programme" to identify "non-core government business activities" that could be done better by, or in partnership with, the private sector.

But shadow chief Treasury secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Brown was merely spewing out "headline figures" in a bid to save his own electoral skin.

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