In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan was “It’s the economy, stupid.” That is still apt today in the UK, 23 years on.
This last year, the UK economy had the highest growth rate of any western nation. I happily report that businesses in the Calder Valley, where nearly 20 per cent of constituents work in manufacturing and more than 20 per cent in the banking and financial sectors, are punching well above their weight in contributing to the economic growth.
The majority just get on and do - and make no mistake, they always do it with sheer Yorkshire grit, bucketloads of innovation, fabulous Yorkshire canniness that includes an eye for fabulous future leaders, and reinvestment into their businesses which sustains them through bad times as well as good.
I am not going to mention all of the Government’s advertised 636 schemes of finance and support for business, because like most Northerners I am a little sceptical about what real help some of those schemes offer.
However, I will talk about the Government schemes that Calder Valley businesses tell me about, which they feel are incredibly helpful to them. Those schemes give hard-working Calder Valley businesses relief and help them on their way, allowing them to get on and build the local and national economy further.
The huge success story is apprenticeships, of which there have been more than 1.5 million in the past four years. They have massively reduced youth unemployment and trained future engineers, manufacturers, bankers, retailers and administrators, to name a few.
In the Calder Valley more than 2,100 apprenticeships have started in the past two years: 490 in engineering and manufacturing; 350 in retail trades; 610 in banking and financial services; and 110 in construction.
Small business rate relief has been a huge relief to small start-ups. It has been helpful in particular to hard-pressed high street retailers, helping small retailers to compete with blue chip retailers, but it has also given a helping hand to dozens of start-up businesses.
Small business loans have been a huge hit locally; 43 individuals have applied for and received a small business loan and mentoring in the past year, of whom 40 per cent were female and 40 per cent were under 30. They are a great way to promote self-worth and entrepreneurial spirit.
Many Calder Valley businesses have benefitted from the regional growth fund, helping to boost job growth. Unemployment is down to just 1.8 per cent, and we have the highest number of women in employment and the highest average earnings in West Yorkshire. Great Calder Valley businesses punching above their weight with a helping hand from Government.
On the national infrastructure level, Calder Valley businesses are pleased about High Speed Two coming to Leeds, bringing much needed capacity on our overcrowded East coast main line.
Those businesses are also pleased about the announcement of High Speed Three. That vital infrastructure investment will enable our national economy to grow, flourish and compete on a global level.
It is not all about rail, either. Money spent on widening the trans-Pennine M62 route has enabled easier passage to markets for our businesses. That has been vital for keeping the cogs and gears of our great Northern powerhouse well oiled, so as to contribute towards the great economic recovery of our nation.
So it is not just “the economy, stupid” - we should add, “with a welcome hand from Government where that is needed and wanted.”
By Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker