Forget Fred the Shred - saving businesses and jobs is the priority

During the last couple of weeks, politicians and pundits have been obsessed with the issue of Sir Fred Goodwin's pension.

Indeed, even within a celebrity obsessed British press, you would be surprised to learn that there have been as many news articles on the fate of the former chief executive of RBS as those covering Jade Goody and her battle with cancer.

Personally, I believe Fred Goodwin’s pension settlement is abhorrent at a time when thousands of his own former staff at RBS are being made redundant and his actions over badly managed finance deals - such as the overpriced purchase of the Dutch bank ABN Amro - have seriously weakened the UK banking sector.

Dealing with this issue can wait a few months and it certainly should not be the main priority for those managing the UK economy and such a distraction will not help one bit in saving the British economy.

Of course, it probably suits the UK Government that the ire of the public has been temporarily diverted away from its own incompetence over the management of the financial sector during the last twelve years, although nobody has yet questioned the generous pensions given to those politicians who helped to get us into this unholy mess in the first place.

Despite some noises from his cabinet, penitence clearly seems to be a long way from the mind of the Prime Minister over his role, as Chancellor of Exchequer, in the deregulation of the financial services sector. However, if he and his colleagues are in any way serious about dealing with the real issues facing the UK economy, then their actions should focus entirely on saving jobs and stopping more businesses from closure.

Heaping shame on a disgraced banker in an atmosphere of mob rule may make everyone feel better, but it does nothing to ensure that the major problem facing the economy is addressed, namely saving British businesses.

As Harriet Harman admitted at last week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, the Government has yet to implement its own £10 billion guarantee scheme for bank loans to help firms stay afloat in the downturn.

As a result, another million jobs are at risk as banks continue to tighten their belts.

What on earth is this Government playing at?

If it is so simple to release billions of taxpayers’ funds to support banks, as they have done with regularity since last year, why is it taking so long to get vital funding to businesses?

With every day of ministerial inaction that passes, well paid jobs are being lost and the UK economy slides further into recession. With every round of redundancies, thousands of families are being plunged into financial difficulties.

Instead of a sense of urgency over the state of the economy, we have the spectacle of a Government ready to introduce emergency laws to strip one banker of his pension and yet through an ineffectual and invisible civil service, continues to prevaricate on making money available to save tens of thousands of businesses.

That is completely unacceptable and our political masters need to wake up to the fact that dealing with the recession is not about saving their jobs but about saving the jobs of the British workforce.

It is easy to talk about global problems and get standing ovations from the US Congress but the primary focus should be on putting our own solutions into place now to support the UK economy.

If we are to stave off depression, then the business sector needs immediate support to ensure that money is released from those banks that have received billions of pounds from the UK taxpayer.

That is what will help to save the UK economy, not hypocritical handwringing by politicians over the greed of individual bankers.

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