Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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A new economic agenda

13
Jul

A first action for the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, must be to lay the framework for an investment and skill-led growth strategy with a major housebuilding programme at its heart.

We have a chronic shortage – not only in Birkenhead, but across the country – of affordable homes for buying or renting. The best estimates suggest that a serious, sustained housebuilding programme would add 2% to our underlying growth rate. It also opens the opportunity for the creation of jobs that pay family wages.

Such a programme will need to be accompanied by planning changes – giving local authorities an incentive to approve programmes – and centre on using, in the first instance, housing associations. Each tranche of new money (borrowed at 0% interest rates) must be linked to a skills acquisition strategy.

I’ve suggested to the Government that it should build this strategy around a major expansion of short-term apprenticeships that equip youngsters with the skills they need to earn money, quickly. Bricklayers can gain basic skills in 10 weeks. Carpenters in a similar period of time. Plumbers can begin to apply their skills after one month’s training.

Moreover, a pledge from Mrs May to impose restrictions on the free movement of labour into this country would signal a strategy of home-produced, rather than imported skills.

Here in Wirral, Bebington High Sports College enables young people to gain construction qualifications. I am anxious that in a new economic framework, those youngsters – and hopefully many others developing this skill set – should be given the chance to earn family wages while helping to ease the country’s housing crisis.


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