Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pre-Budget report response

The statement from Gordon Brown again shows what an excellent chancellor he has been over the last decade and the huge economic success this country has had over the last decade.

Thanks to the policies pursued we have enjoyed the longest ever period of economic success, interest rates of half the figure it was under the Tories and unemployment that is a fraction of the figure it was under the Tories. The continuing prosperity of the economy is a tribute to Gordon Brown, while the Tories talk and gloom on the economy (and George Osborne was pretty hopeless in his response) they cannot get away from the facts that Britain continues to prosper. The approach adopted of investment instead of tax cuts is the right approach.

Within the Pre-Budget report, I also welcome the publication of long-term Leitch report on skills and the Eddington report into transport. In any economy it is vital that we have long-term thinking and tackle the issues that need tackling, if we did not then we would not be doing our job in Government. The Government have done a great deal on tackling skills and training issues, but it clear further measures are needed to ensure our workforce are equipped to face the challenges of a global economy which is ever changing and addressing skills shortages that exist within parts of the country.

The other part of the budget that I welcome is the extra resources into our schools in direct payments, an extra £12,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondary schools. The transformation in our schools has been pretty remarkable in terms of resources available and also in terms of renewing school infrastructure and buildings which I see first hand in my own Council ward of Pollards Hill. This has had a huge effect in raising school standards and attainment, however we can have no let up in the drive the raise standards even further and improve results.

Finally, the other interesting matter from a local government perspective is the Barker review and the proposed setting up of an independent planning body to deal with strategic applications. The current planning appeal system does need to be improved, the appeal process is long drawn out, and I know from experience that reform is needed within the system to speed up the process. With an independent system of appeal, the decision will be taken away from the political environment at the national level and false accusations from our opponents’ that planning decisions have been made politically will be no more. What has to be crucial as well is that planning is determined initially locally and I believe that this should continue to remain the case.

Overall the last ten years has shown Gordon Brown to be the most successful chancellor ever and his record bears tantamount to that.


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