Thursday, 13 December 2012

West Briton Column 13 December 2012

Last week’s Autumn Statement saw the Chancellor reaffirm the Government’s commitment to taking the hard decisions necessary to secure a prosperous future for Britain.  To ensure this prosperity we need to lead people out of poverty, through education and employment.

This is why the Government is investing in education for people of all ages.  In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced over £1billion to fund the building of over a hundred new schools and the expansion of hundreds of existing schools.  A further £270million will be invested in further education.

Last month I was able to see firsthand what a difference education can make to the lives of people of all ages as I attended Cornwall College’s graduation ceremony. Many of the local students I saw collecting their first degrees were people who had careers and families and then returned to education later in life.  From next year, older students will be helped by recent reforms which means that mature students can access student financing that covers both further education and higher education courses.

Of course academic subjects are only part of the picture; the Government has also made it easier for people of all ages to acquire vocational skills.  £1.5 billion is being spent on increasing the number of apprenticeships available whilst benefit changes mean that jobseekers can undertake work experience whilst receiving benefits, allowing them to gain vital workplace skills while seeking employment. More help has also been made available for small businesses and for people looking to set up new businesses.

The Autumn Statement detailed a range of measures to further boost the push for job creation which has already seen over 1.2million new jobs created in the private sector since May 2010.  We are seeing the effects of this in Truro and Falmouth; over the past year there has been a steady increase in the vacancies registered at local Jobcentres.  Hundreds of jobs have now been secured at Falmouth Docks as a result of the Ministry of Defence’s decision to extend the Shipyard’s contract to support the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) flotilla.

It is of course essential that, whilst we help as many people as possible into education and work, we continue to look after those who need financial support.  Disability benefits will be increased next year, as will the basic state pension, which is set for an above inflation rise of 2.5% next April.

Hard-pressed family budgets across Truro and Falmouth will also see some relief, with tax changes meaning that over two million people on modest incomes in the South West will see their tax bill fall next year.  Thanks to the Government listening to the concerns colleagues and I voiced, next year’s planned fuel duty rise will be scrapped.

To lay the foundations for a prosperous future we need to invest in people, to support them through the difficult times and to help them realise their potential through education and employment.  If we are to build a future fit for our children to inherit, this work must continue. 

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