They say that you save the best until last and this week we saw the end of the conference season, culminating with the Prime Minister’s speech setting out our plan for the country; reiterating his plan and the plan all of us have, to deliver on the promises made last year and to Build Back Better.
Coronavirus may be presenting problems in all of our lives at the moment but I will not lose sight of what the people of this Borough wanted when they sent me to Parliament. The question of our future; our job prospects; our level of connectivity; our long term health and wellbeing; and the pride in our nation. These issues still remain my focus.
The idea of levelling up covers many areas but giving everyone across this borough, regardless of background, the ability to further their own lives, live their own dream and succeed in what they want to achieve is at the core. Levelling up means opportunity, for you, your family and our children and that’s the big difference that exists between the message we’re pushing out and the message of the opposition.
Government has had to take tough decisions as of late but Boris perfectly summed up our agenda; an agenda that is backed by the majority of the people in the country because it delivers change rather than just warm words.
Better connectivity between our towns and cities, ensuring we have the right connections to support, sustain and strengthen communities; a widening of the opportunities to learn with record investment in apprenticeships and adult education; and a support net in place, not just to deal with the fallout from Coronavirus but to help people in any time of need.
These are our values and is what makes the UK such a strong and vibrant country to live in.
In recent months we have seen those who want to hide our history and culture come out in force to demand that we tear down our past and retreat from our achievements. To them I’m afraid my message is one of defiance. I am proud of what we have achieved and, more importantly, now look to the future and push forward with what we still can achieve for the people of our area. Prosperity needs to spread throughout the country and my job is to make sure that Burnley and Padiham benefit from it.
And part of this is moving away from the idea of generation rent to generation buy, giving people a stake in their neighbourhood. Young people shouldn’t struggle to put down roots but for too many the difficulties in paying the rent and saving for a house deposit are just too great. It’s a situation we need to change and why I’m such a proponent of the Government’s plan for long-term, low rate mortgages. We often talk about the need to get people in to the vacant properties that we have across Burnley and this is one solution.
We also heard this week from the Chancellor who has proved that where the circumstances require it, the enormous financial muscle of Her Majesty’s Treasury is ready to step in. And in doing this he and his team have developed the most innovative policy set of any country. Not only measures that our country has never before tried, like furlough and wage top-ups for those working part time; but also measures that have never been tried anywhere like Eat Out to Help Out. The critics of these schemes claim that they pushed up the COVID rate, or haven’t saved every job. But they have saved jobs and our response has saved lives – millions of both.
I don’t think many would disagree that 2020 has been a tough year, but as we look forward I believe we can do so with some optimism. Not because the next few months won’t be tough, and they will be, but because there is light at the end of the tunnel. Government intervention will eventually end and the drivers of growth, jobs and ingenuity in our private businesses will come to the fore.
The future task is the one I was elected for; to create an environment in which business can thrive. It still is, and will remain, the most important factor in seeing Burnley and Padiham level up. Upgrades to our infrastructure, improving our road network and rolling out super high-speed broadband is essential, as is providing the skills employers need in the 21st century.
Yes, we have to deal with immediate problems of Coronavirus, but we must not lose sight of the future that we all want. I will continue to make sure that is the case and that we are not forgotten.
We all know that the situation over the past 8 months has presented challenges, both on a personal level but also for the business community. And we’re not yet out of the woods. But this will not last forever.