Jon Ashworth MP: Time we shared growth cash
The news about Stride is devastating for all involved. In recent days, I have been offering my support and trying to help as best I can. Stride provided just the type of training to our young people that our economy needs.
I hope over the next few days something can be salvaged from this desperate situation.
Last week, I spoke out in the Commons about support for manufacturing, because East Midlands firms for too long have been getting a raw deal when it comes to support.
I'm pleased Leicestershire firms such as ADS Laser Cutting have won grants, but the overall picture in the East Midlands is really disappointing.
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Did you know manufacturing accounts for £12.4 billion – 15.8 per cent – of the East Midlands' total economic output?
This is a higher proportion than any other region in the United Kingdom, where the average is 10.3 per cent.
This is not just large manufacturers but many small and medium-sized firms.
Ministers rightly talk of wanting to re-balance the economy.
Well, I am in favour of supporting trade and increasing our exports – and supporting our manufacturing base is vital to that.
But even though manufacturing is so important to us, the East Midlands is losing out on money from the Regional Growth Fund, which is supposed to be part of driving that re-balancing.
Ministers have paid out this regional growth money in three rounds so far.
In round one, £450 million was available in the fund, yet the East Midlands won just 4 per cent of the successful awards, despite making 13 per cent of the bids.
In round two, £950 million was available. The region made 11 per cent of the bids, and we were awarded only 8 per cent of the awards.
In the third round, we received only 2 per cent of the £706 million allocated to private sector projects.
It is time ministers got a round in for the East Midlands.
Readers have continued to raise opposition to the Tory-Liberal Democrat Government's "bedroom tax", which is about to hit thousands of people across Leicester.
Many will be forced out of their homes or will have to find extra money because it is effectively an increase in rent.
One Mercury reader was annoyed I called this policy a "bedroom tax" (although it is local people who are calling it that).
I know Tory MPs and activists have been instructed to stop using the term, but the reality is this unfair policy is a tax on space in a household.
What's more, the effect of this policy will end up costing all taxpayers more as residents will be forced into the private sector where rents are higher or, alternatively, more cash will be sucked out of the economy as residents try to pay the tax.
What an economic mess. No wonder George Osborne has been forced to borrow even more and the public debt has gone up.
Next week, I'm going to India with the charity Save the Children.
Given the strong bond between Leicester and India, I am looking forward to visiting a country which so many Leicester residents have deep ties to. India is becoming a major global power and I believe our links can enhance our economy in Leicester.
However, the UK Government really must change its policy on international students.
Both Leicester and De Montfort universities have seen falls in the numbers of Indian students coming here to study because of Government policies.
That's not in our economic interest and I'll be pushing the Government to do more to support our universities to become engines of economic growth.