GDP growth slows to 0.3% in final week before general election

Reuters / Toby Melville
UK economic growth has slowed to just 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2015, providing Ed Miliband’s Labour Party with ample campaign ammunition in the final week of electioneering.

Prime Minister David Cameron admitted the results are “less exciting” than previously hoped, but Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls used the figures to attack Tory economic policy.

Economists were expecting growth of 0.5 percent, but official figures showed growth between January and March was half the rate of the previously quarter. It is the slowest recorded period of growth since the end of 2012.

Balls said the results showed the Conservatives failed to improve the finances or quality of life of many Britons.

While the Tories have spent months patting themselves on the back, these figures show they have not fixed the economy for working families,” he said.

Tory economic policy may be helping a few at the top but for most people bills have gone up faster than wages.”

“Working families can’t afford another five years of the Tories. Labour’s better plan will put working people first, make our economy stronger and ensure the recovery reaches everyone in every part of the country,” he added.

But speaking in London, David Cameron used the stagnation to warn against a future Labour government.

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“Our economy is growing at a rate that many other European countries frankly would give their eye teeth for. These are one quarter’s figures.”

“But they remind us that you cannot take recovery for granted. You take your eye off the ball on reducing the deficit… that would be bad for growth; you take your eye off the ball in being pro-business… that would damage growth.”

He added that voting for Labour would create further “instability” for the UK and Europe.

“These figures demonstrate you’ve got insecurity and instability all over the world, including on our doorstep in Europe.”

“So I would say to people: don’t vote for instability and insecurity here at home. Stick to the plan that is delivering the growth, delivering the jobs,” he added.

This is the last major economic news to be released before the general election. They show the recovery is largely focused on consumption, with the service sector showing the highest levels of growth.

Revenue from bars, restaurants and other service providers grew by 0.5 percent, while other major industries, including construction and agriculture, showed shrinkage.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said the Conservatives had failed to help the struggling economy.

The slowest recovery in modern history just slowed down again.”

“This is bad news for jobs and living standards. What’s more, Conservative plans for extreme cuts after the election risk completely killing off this faltering recovery and plunging the economy back into even deeper trouble.

“The makers are marching backwards, construction is slumping and it’s only services that have rescued the economy from shrinking. This is the opposite of the rebalanced economy we were promised,” she said.