In January, there were over 830 fewer people claiming unemployment benefit than in May 2010 in Truro and Falmouth. There are more people of all ages in employment now than ever before. Most of the new jobs created are full time jobs too, although for some people, flexible employment enables the balancing of caring responsibilities with employment.
I want this progress to continue, and to see Cornwall at the forefront of the march towards a full employment economy. Unemployment here is already significantly below the UK average. I want to see more home grown food, home generated energy, goods and services created here and sold across the UK and the growing economies of the world.
We can deliver this by giving people the skills that businesses creating new jobs need their employees to have. Apprenticeships are crucial and since 2010, over 3,580 new apprenticeships have been created in Truro and Falmouth alone.
Cornwall Apprenticeship Service, based in Falmouth, offer a first class service to small businesses enabling them to provide a wide range of high quality apprenticeships.
We must also support the great local businesses that are creating jobs. A range of policies, including increased VAT thresholds, large reductions to business rates and business taxes, an employment allowance worth £3000, reduced red tape and £500 million of EU investment are helping businesses grow and wages rise locally.
From April 1st the National Living Wage is being introduced at £7.20 an hour – rising to £9 an hour by 2020. Personal taxes are going down too. Since 2010, 3.8 million people have been taken out of tax altogether and 27.5 million have seen their income tax cut. As of 2015, Mums who stay at home can transfer 10% or an average of £1060 of their personal allowance to their partner.
Of course the difficult task of reducing the budget deficit continues. We have made good progress, with the deficit now one third of what it was in 2010, but more needs to be done to reduce public expenditure so we live within our means. I don’t think we should duck this and pass on the nation’s debt to our children and grandchildren. This does mean that we are pressing ahead with some changes to welfare payments. Those people who are able to work but who are not currently doing so will have their benefits capped at £20,000 per year. Benefit payments for people with disabilities will continue to increase every year. Our expenditure is greater than other wealthy nations such as Germany and France. Pensioner’s benefits and pensions are also fully protected.
I know many people feel that large international companies such as Google or Amazon don’t pay their fair share of tax. I share those frustrations and I am pleased that the Government has led the international community in closing down the tax loopholes that have enabled some international companies to shift their profits around the world to avoid tax. This Government has introduced a diverted profits tax to stop multinationals using contrived arrangements to shift profits outside of the UK. I am pleased the Government has also made more than 40 changes to tax law to close loopholes, and introduced a new general anti-abuse rule to deter abusive tax avoidance.
It’s worth noting that according to independent data, since 2010, the wealthiest 1% of British people have contributed 28% of all tax receipts. The poverty gap is closing according to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which demonstrate that income inequality has fallen since 2010.
Having grown up near Falmouth, I know only too well of the poverty that has blighted the lives of too many people here. However, I believe the foundations are being laid to ensure that every local person has the opportunity of a good education and skills training to enable them to make the most of the improving employment opportunities that are growing here. Investment in our local infrastructure and economy is also creating an improved environment to set up or grow a business.
I am delighted that in the recent budget, the Chancellor announced the MarineHub Enterprise Zone. These zones are delivered locally by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), Local Authorities and businesses. Enterprise Zones are about delivering long term, sustainable growth based on cutting edge technology and enterprise. They have three key incentives; up to 100% Business Rate discount of up to a value of £275,000 per business over 5 years; 100% enhanced capital allowance tax relief and all growth in business rates related to the zones are kept by the LEP and Cornwall Council to reinvest in the local economy.
This is good news for marine renewables. The MarineHub Enterprise Zone includes A & P and will attract more investment from international companies to develop and test devises that make energy from wave and tide. This will further develop our reputation as a centre for innovation and high skilled marine engineering expertise.
Of course there are some real local challenges not least of which is housing. More about that next month…..