Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 18:04 UK

Brown 'standing firm' on economy

Gordon Brown interview about UK economy

Gordon Brown has said he will not be diverted from the "right long-term decisions" for the UK's economy even if they are "unpopular in the short term".

The prime minister told the BBC he wanted to show people worried about homes and jobs the economy was "safe for them over the next few months".

He spoke after a Downing Street meeting with bank chiefs to discuss ways to boost confidence in the housing market.

The Bank of England has also put 15bn more into the banking system.

The move is an effort to improve liquidity in the financial markets.

It has now injected more than 50bn since the start of the credit crisis, which was sparked by massive losses for banks who lent in the US sub-prime sector.

Downing Street said the talks - with bosses from Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Nationwide - were not a crisis summit and had been in the prime minister's diary for some time.

Mr Brown said discussion included measures to ensure lenders pass on the Bank of England's interest rate cuts to mortgage borrowers.

Sentiment is at a very low ebb and will continue to remain depressed while the economy suffers from this unique liquidity blight
Jeremy Leaf, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Asked about his recent difficulties, including axing the 10p tax rate and arguments over public sector pay, Mr Brown said: "I will not hesitate to take these long-term decisions. That's what being in politics is about.

"Of course sometimes it is unpopular in the short term. Sometimes you might get no temporary advantage out of what might be the right long term thing to do."

But he insisted: "We're taking all the measures that we can and we will not be diverted from this as a fundamental priority."

He said he recognised that "we've got to show people who are worried about their homes and people who are worried about their mortgages and people who are worried about their jobs that we can ensure that the economy is safe for them over the next few months."

'Insecurities'

The talks came as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reported that its members had their gloomiest view of the property market since its survey began in 1978.

The proportion of surveyors claiming prices were falling hit a new high during the month, with 78.5% more saying the value of property had dropped than those who reported a rise, it added.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Gordon Brown does not have the vision, understanding or leadership qualities to get us out of this situation
Keith Brown, St Albans

Meanwhile, the Treasury revealed inflation figures for March held steady for a second month at 2.5% - above the Bank of England's 2% target.

Despite the early Easter, the British Retail Consortium said shop sales in March had declined by 1.6% from the same period a year earlier.

And the pound has fallen to a new low against the euro, with one euro now worth just over 80.65p, reflecting currency traders' concerns about the British economy.

Director general Stephen Robertson said consumers were making "serious economies" and were "increasingly concerned about the future".

Mr Brown will travel to the US this week to meet finance chiefs to discuss the global credit crisis.

Chancellor Alistair Darling is to hold separate talks with mortgage lenders next week.

Former home secretary David Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's The World at One that the abolition of the 10p income tax rate would have a "disproportionate" effect on low earners.

He added that government had "got to put a package together, a programme together" to help those affected.

Des Turner, Labour MP for Brighton Kemp Town, said "in some respects" he had been disappointed with Gordon Brown's performance.

David Cameron condemns government "waste"

"He started out with a lovely feeling of collegiality. Since the non-election he really does seem to have gone back to his inner circle rather than others."

Conservative leader David Cameron accused Labour of having "wasted money on a gargantuan scale".

"What people are really interested in is what would you do for the future and what I'm saying very clearly is that spending needs to be properly controlled," he said.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the banks should only be granted extra liquidity if they agreed to reform.

His treasury spokesman Vince Cable said he hoped the government had taken "a tough line with the banks".

"I would hope the meeting this morning was treated as a crisis meeting because it is a very serious situation," he said.


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