There’s so much that I want to talk about in this week’s column, that I simply can’t fit it all in. But here’s some of the big news.
It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and there is so much for us to celebrate locally. Since 2010 this has been one of the defining missions for Government, opening up opportunity with more than 700 occupations now covered by an apprenticeship qualification. That’s everything from nursing and accountancy, to teaching and space engineering. And locally, we’ve seen more than 12,500 people become an apprentice since 2010. Huge congratulations to all our current apprentices, and employers supporting them.
Next up is HIV Testing Week. This is one of those health areas that still, sadly, has a stigma attached to it. But it shouldn’t have, because the treatments available to prevent HIV, and treat those with it, are now so advanced compared to even a few years ago. The Government has an ambitious plan to reduce HIV transmission to zero by 2030, but to do that we need to really ramp up testing. So not only are we increasing the number of NHS trusts who test for HIV routinely, but this week anyone can also order a free HIV testing kit online (https://www.startswithme.org.uk/). The test takes only about 20 minutes to give a result, and is really easy to do.
And finally, local government. Whilst it’s fair to say the local Labour Party are in somewhat of a disarray, I continue to have a good working relationship with the independents running the council. That’s important for me, because the Council provides many of the services residents rely on and we can’t let politics get in the way of us working together.
That’s why this week I was pleased to see the Council’s core spending power boosted once again in this years’ Local Government Finance Settlement (LGFS), which is set by Government. Alongside the collection of Council Tax, the LGFS sets out how much central funding councils receive annually. And for us it’s rising more than inflation again which is really positive news.
Since I was elected, I’ve fought hard to ensure that government funding to our Council has continued to rise, which it has for both Burnley and Lancashire Councils.
Now it is for them to set their budget against that increased funding backdrop. We all know of Labour’s record of never-ending Council Tax increases, whilst wasting money on vanity projects like Carbon Literacy Training, but with a new administration comes new possibilities.