10 February 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Economic vandalism leaves Britain on the edge of recession
  • Lack of further energy bill support “heartless” – Davey
  • One in 20 waiting five minutes or more for 999 calls to be answered

Economic vandalism leaves Britain on the edge of recession

Responding to the latest ONS figures which see the UK economy narrowly avoiding recession, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Britain is dangling on over the edge of a recession after months of economic vandalism and chaos in Government. The blame for these gloomy figures lies squarely with the Government, who have botched budgets, failed to tackle inflation and have no plan for growth.

The Conservative party hasn’t a shred of economic competence left. This Government has hiked taxes to record levels and done nothing to stimulate economic growth. Businesses are now drowning in mountains of red-tape because of failed trade deals which has stifled all hope of an economic recovery after the pandemic. Gross incompetence and mismanagement of the country’s finances has led to this point.

Lack of further energy bill support “heartless” – Davey

Responding to the news that Jeremy Hunt has ruled out further energy support, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

This Conservative government either doesn’t care or doesn’t understand the struggles of millions of families and pensioners. The British people deserve better.

Jeremy Hunt needs to urgently bring in a proper windfall tax on oil and gas profits, and cancel April’s energy bill rise.

Anything less than real action from the Conservatives will be heartlessly condemning millions of people to more energy misery.

One in 20 waiting five minutes or more for 999 calls to be answered

  • People calling 999 for an ambulance can now expect to spend an average of nearly 90 seconds on hold, an almost 15-fold increase since 2018
  • One in 20 are waiting five minutes or longer for someone to pick up the phone in an emergency
  • In some regions 999 callers are waiting 10 minutes or more to get through

One in 20 of those calling 999 for an ambulance in England are now waiting five minutes or more for their call to be answered, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The average hold time for 999 ambulance calls in December was close to 90 seconds, a record high and an almost 15-fold increase since four years ago.

For the bottom five percent of calls, the average wait was 316 seconds or more than five minutes. This means some callers were waiting almost the same amount of time as the 7-minute target for ambulances to arrive at the scene for life-threatening Category 1 calls.

The research was commissioned by the Liberal Democrats from the House of Commons Library. It shows that every region in England has seen a staggering rise in delays to answer 999 ambulance calls in recent years.

In the South East Coast region, the worst hit part of the country, desperate 999 callers needing an ambulance are waiting an average of almost three minutes before getting through. One in twenty callers in the region are waiting on hold for a shocking 10 minutes, longer than the time ambulances are meant to respond to life-threatening emergencies.

After the South East Coast, the regions facing the worst average call response times were London (2 minutes 30 seconds), the South West (two minutes and six seconds) and Yorkshire (one minute 57 seconds). In London, one in twenty of those calling 999 for an ambulance waited 8 minutes and 43 seconds to get through.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an urgent rescue plan to reduce pressure on ambulance services, including recruiting more GPs and fixing the crisis in social care. The party is also calling on the government to launch a recruitment drive of NHS 999 call handlers where they are needed, including encouraging retired and former staff to return.

As part of this the party is calling for measures to improve social care, free up hospital beds and stop ambulances waiting outside hospitals.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, commented:

It is devastating that some people are having to wait 10 minutes or more to get through to 999 in a medical emergency.

I cannot imagine the feelings of distressed parents and patients as they are panicking, just waiting for someone to pick up the phone.

We know that every precious minute lost in life-threatening situations can be critical. People need to know that in an emergency, 999 calls will be answered straight away and an ambulance sent as quickly as possible.

Every part of our emergency care system is suffering from years of neglect under this Conservative government. Ministers must urgently act to reduce these record delays that are causing harm to patients and huge stress to our hard-working paramedics and call handlers.

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  • George Thomas 11th Feb '23 - 10:31am

    Does Sarah Olney MP genuinely believe that the Tories were good at running the economy before Brexit and Truss? Why did people vote for Brexit if they were in a strong economic position? Why have things gone wrong so quickly since?

  • Peter Martin 11th Feb '23 - 11:39am

    Sarah Olney complains about high inflation and recession at the same time.

    All schools of economic thought would agree that any action to reduce inflation is likely to deepen any recession and that any action to stimulate the economy to boost growth and lessen the recession will have an inflationary impact.

    So either Sarah Olney doesn’t know what she is talking about, or she’s discovered some new economic principle which could be invaluable to not just us, but many other economies too which are experiencing similar problems. If so she might want to tell us about it!

  • Chris Moore 11th Feb '23 - 1:21pm

    Firstly, Sarah didn’t complain about recession and inflation at the same time. We aren’t in a recession.

    Secondly, there are many long term measures which can increase growth rates without increasing inflation or indeed which may diminish it. Improving education, increasing R and D, providing better child care services to allow more women to work etc etc.

    Liz T and adherents of the magic money school of thought are too focussed on short-term stimulants. These rarely end well.

  • ” a proper windfall tax on oil and gas profits” – I bet Ed has no idea what he actually means by this and is just shouting for the sake of shouting…

  • Peter Martin 12th Feb '23 - 7:15am


    We have been in a sort-of-recession for the past 15 years or so. We only need a tiny increase in GDP in any one quarter to not be in a technical recession but it doesn’t stop many businesses closing down and jobs being lost. We probably wouldn’t have had Brexit if conditions had been better.

    The measures you suggest are commendable in their own right but they aren’t a realistic substitute for effective macroeconomic policy.

  • Peter Hirst 15th Feb '23 - 2:25pm

    The main act of economic vandalism was leaving the EU. Even if we had a half competent government it was going to be a rough ride to retain our economy that supplies our public services. With this incompetent one it was akin to commiting suicide and not caring of the effect on those who elected them.

  • @Peter Hirst – The main act of economic vandalism was leaving the EU.
    There are two parts to this: the actual act and effects of leaving the EU and the amount of work involved that practically swamped Westminster and Whitehall, sidelining the domestic agenda. Hence much of where we are today (2023) is directly due to a lack of effective Government since before 2015 (the “referendum on europe” general election).

    Given the duration of Brexit and CoViD perhaps, we should be looking at the post WWII UK and ask if there is an opportunity for an Attlee style election…

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