A New Type of Government

Peter Aldous speaks on ‘The Business Agenda of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition’ at a Business Conference in Westminster.

A. Introduction

Two months ago today, at this time I was flat out asleep. It had been an exhausting campaign, but we had won by a small majority of 769, a figure that will stay with me forever.

My campaign centred around one issue: retaining and bringing more jobs to the constituency. Two months on, it is appropriate to take stock and pose the question: - are the Coalition Government putting in place policies that will help me achieve this objective? Are they a new type of government, who will help turn around years of economic decline in the constituency?

Firstly a bit about myself and the constituency I represent.

I am best described by the three “Ps” –
• “P” for property – 27 years of working as a chartered surveyor in Suffolk and Norfolk.

• “P” for politics – having been both a district and county councillor.

• “P” for pigs – helping out on the family farm – a mixed arable and pig unit.

My constituency, Waveney, in Suffolk, is the most easterly in Britain and comprises the coastal town of Lowestoft, the market towns of Beccles and Bungay and a large rural hinterland.

Over the years in Lowestoft jobs have gone and have not been replaced. The fishing fleet is a shadow of its former self, the coachworks has gone, as has the canning factory, two ship yards, the television factory and the joinery works. The holiday industry has changed and there are fewer jobs in the oil and gas sector than there were 10 years ago.

The great hope that we now have is offshore renewables: - Lowestoft occupies a strategic location in relation to the wind farms that are both under construction and proposed in the North Sea. This location allied with the skills built up over many years in the fishing, shipbuilding and the oil and gas sectors provides the town with a great opportunity. It is my job to help make the best of this opportunity.

B. Ingredients for business to flourish
For businesses to flourish in both Waveney and across the country I believe that there are 5 vital ingredients that any government should be looking to nurture:-
1. Firstly there is a need to rebalance the economy, so that as well as London being a world player in the financial markets, Britain is a leader in a diverse range of other sectors across the regions.

2. To enable businesses to grow and to encourage people to set up their own businesses there must be less red tape and bureaucracy. With regard to corporate taxation in global terms we must be competitive, with a low taxation regime.

3. It is also vitally important that there is ready access to finance that is available on realistic terms..

4. Good infrastructure is of vital importance. This is something that for years Britain has done badly. Our transport network lags behind that of our European competitors and important schemes such as bypasses and better rail links so often have the gestation period of an elephant. We need better roads and railways and it is also vitally important that superfast broadband is available across the country as soon as practically possible. This is a particular challenge in a remote area such as Waveney.

5. Finally we need to invest in people: we need to be sure that they have the skills and the expertise that employers require.

C. How is the Coalition doing?
These are my vital ingredients for business success. So how is the Coalition Government measuring up? Are they putting in place the building blocks that will enable new jobs to be created in Waveney and across the country?

Rome was not built in a day, one cannot expect too much in a few short weeks, but are they making the right noises and is policy making moving in the right direction?

Let’s look at a few areas:
1. At the heart of the Coalition Government’s programme for government is their Deficit Reduction Plan, which takes precedence over all other measures. This does mean that in the short to medium term funds will not be available for investment in some of the areas that I have outlined. However I recognise that if the UK is not seen to be serious about tackling the deficit then the implications for our economy are dire.

2. There is a need to get the banks lending again and thus the Government’s objective of developing effective proposals to make sure that there is a flow of credit to small and medium sized enterprises is to be welcomed.

3. Their intention to rebalance the economy is also good news.

The Coalition Document sets out a vision of building “a new economy from the rubble of the old”, and of achieving sustainable growth across all regions and industries. To me and Waveney with one eye to the sea the promotion of green industries with incentives for green growth are to be welcomed.

Indeed the chapter on Energy and Climate Change in the Coalition Document is in many respects the most exciting part of it. A wide variety of measures are promised that if delivered will do much to help create new jobs in Lowestoft.

These measures include:

- The aim to increase the target for energy from renewable sources.
- Creating a Green Investment Bank.
- Measures to encourage Marine energy.
– Delivering an offshore electricity grid to support the development of a new generation of offshore wind power.

4. There are positive proposals to cut the red tape that does so much to discourage people both from setting up their own businesses and then expanding them.

These include:
• Giving the public the opportunity to have a say and to challenge the worst regulations, meaning that it will be real people not bureaucrats who make decisions on regulation.
• Introducing a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule - no new regulation will be introduced without another being cut.
• Finding a practical way to make small business rate relief automatic.
• Reviewing employment and workplace laws, for employers and employees, to ensure they maximise flexibility for both parties while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise to thrive.
• Ending the ban on social tenants starting businesses in their own homes.
• And; ending the so-called ‘gold-plating’ of EU rules, so that British businesses are not disadvantaged relative to their European competitors.
In his Budget, George Osborne announced a major package of reforms to reduce corporation tax rates. These included measures to:
• reduce the main rate of corporation tax from 28 per cent to 24 per cent over the course of the four financial years from April 2011.
• reducing the small profits rate to 20 per cent, instead of the planned increase to 22 per cent, from April 2011;

These measures and the others announced by the Chancellor will help create the most competitive corporate tax system in the G20.

5. Turning to transport, I am going to have to wait for an upgraded A12 to Lowestoft and for a third crossing across the lake that divides the town and generates so much traffic congestion. However that does not prevent me and the councils working on a blueprint of the road network that we need to attract new businesses to the town.

Turning to the railways, the prospect of longer rail franchises does provide an opportunity for us to attract investment into the rail network, so that on the East Suffolk line there can be more trains and we can reintroduce a through service to London, which will do so much to reduce the perception of remoteness that have put off businesses in the past.

6. With regard to training and providing people with the skills that businesses require the Coalition Document provides encouragement. The promotion of apprenticeships and the availability of some funding for further education colleges is to be welcomed.

The coalition have announced that £50 million will be invested in Further Education colleges, which they will be able to leverage up to create a £150m fund to provide capital investment to those colleges most in need. Lowestoft College, with my support, have already put in a bid to this fund.

In addition, £150 million will be used to fund 50,000 new apprenticeship places, focused on small and medium enterprises

D. Conclusions
Is the Coalition Government a new type of government? After a few short weeks that feel like a lifetime am I full of enthusiasm or full of foreboding about the prospects for helping attract new jobs to Waveney.

With regard to the first question time will tell, but it feels different and the people to whom I talk like it.
The objective of creating a low carbon economy is an exciting challenge and Britain can be a world leader in helping deliver it. It provides my constituency with a great opportunity to reverse decades of decline.

In these austere times my task of helping bring new jobs to Waveney won’t be an easy one, but the Coalition Government are giving me a fighting chance.

The Renaissance of East Anglian Fisheries

Construction (Retention Deposit Schemes) Bill

Construction (Retention Deposit Schemes) Bill

Surgeries

Peter holds regular surgeries at various locations in the constituency. Please call 01502 586568 to make an appointment.

Next Surgeries - 2018: 
Lowestoft, Wednesday 8th August

 

 

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