Slow recovery leads to fairer society
After the worst economic crisis in living memory, there is a sense of relief that recovery is beginning to take hold after two successive months of positive growth following confirmation that a ‘double-dip’ recession did not in fact occur.
In the North East we are fortunate to be protected from the gales of economic downturn. Although the Government’s first budget did contribute to a downturn in activity in the North Sea, measures taken by the Government since then (under pressure from the Liberal Democrats) have stimulated investment to near record spending.
Unemployment in Gordon stands at just 0.9 per cent - demonstration of a skills shortage - tackling which will be crucial to securing optimum UK content in domestic
opportunities and the prospect of strengthening global exports. I am pleased to have been appointed by the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey, to be part of a small cross party group of MPs to liaise with the industry to try and optimise UK content.
I remain firmly of the view that the strategy of the UK Government to tackle the deficit and rebalance the economy is the correct one even though it is proving very
difficult. Under Labour the economy shrank by 7.5 per cent and, so far, we have only recovered half of that.
Because, again thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the Government has sought to ensure the impact of the policies is fairly distributed, the reduction in the deficit has
been slow. Raising the tax threshold from around £6500 to £10,000 by next April, giving the biggest ever boost to pensions and guaranteeing future increases will be the greatest of inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent are huge achievements at a time of economic crisis.
While critics have focussed on the benefits cap, they have chosen to ignore the fact that non work related benefits have been inflation protected. For most people,it is to be hoped that time on benefit will be relatively short and they will have some resilience mechanism. Helping people back into work is the best assistance that can be given to people on benefits. If these reforms can deliver we should be able to protect and improve benefits for those in real need.
Leith Hall restored to glory
I was delighted to attend the re-opening of Leith Hall to the public last week five years after it was closed in the middle of a financial crisis for the National Trust for Scotland. At that time visitor numbers were falling and the future of the property looked bleak.
A campaign to save Leith Hall was launched and led to some stormy meetings as the Trust was challenged to come up with a plan to re-open the hall. This turned into the much more positive Friends of Leith Hall which worked with the trust to find a way back to viability.
Plans were afoot to upgrade the flats to generate letting income and let cottages in the grounds. Events were organised. However, the realisation of the hall refurbished and prepared for catering and functions, was made possible by a generous bequest.
As a result the house looks better than I can remember.
Church advice on credit – and thrift
I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention on the subject of payday loans was interesting. Credit Unions provide a valuable service although their value is limited.
There are a lot of reasons why people need loans before payday. For some, it is really an issue of struggling on a low income and for those an affordable service is what is needed to avoid their being sucked into the clutches of moneylenders. If thechurches and others can help with that it will be welcome.
For some people. of course, the loans are required because of poor budgeting or buying non essential items before they have saved enough. Some are prepared to pay a charge for an early advance and know what they are doing
So, alongside affordable credit might usefully come advice on the virtues of thrift, something Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and advice centres are well versed in doing. But church involvement would be practical and welcome.