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PICKLES Eric smiling

The Government’s long-term economic plan has some profound goals at its heart. After years of uncertainty, we want to make Britain a country where people feel financially secure; where everyone who wants to work hard and get on life has the peace of mind that Britain is a country where they can make it, and that their children can too.

And we mean everyone. One of the many tragedies of the Labour years is that the self proclaimed party of the many acted in the interests of just a few. Prosperity, financial security, opportunities – these were things restricted to too few parts of country. If you were from the south east and worked in financial services, then you were OK. But if you weren’t, then you were left behind.

Changing this will take time. But we’re making progress. Here are just a few facts you need to know about the new economy that is emerging.

One: in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and surrounding towns, more than 49,010 new apprenticeships were started last year. That’s more than in the whole of London – and most importantly means young people in our former industrial heartlands getting the chance to develop practical skills, kick start a career and of course the chance to take home a decent pay-packet.

Two: in Merseyside and Lancashire, there were just shy of fifty thousand (48,685) new enterprises in 2013 alone, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year. And guess what? That’s three times the rate in London. It’s an increase which means that more people across our country can feel secure in the knowledge they can make something of themselves.

Three: in Birmingham, Yorkshire and Humberside the rise of private sector employment has been higher in every year since 2010 than in the boom years between 2000 and 2007. That’s more people in work, earning their own way and providing for their families.

In Coventry, the number of young people starting an apprenticeship has doubled.  In Liverpool, there has been a five per cent jump in the number of private sector jobs.  And in places like Stoke-on-Trent, Tyneside and Plymouth, we are seeing economic growth which is far outstripping the national average.

Across our country local business leaders and councils are being freed from the shackles of central targets and diktats, working together to get things done.  The hardworking spirit of the British people which I’ve seen in action so often is pushing through. It’s taking advantage of cuts in red tape, reforms to our planning system and in low business rates to change communities and bring a better future for local areas.

But there is still a long way to go. The job isn’t even half done. And nothing would be more dangerous than a return to the same old recipe of more spending, more borrowing and more taxes that Labour offers. That will take us back to the bad old days when the level of national debt was soaring but spending on the nations’ credit card was too. Instead, we have to continue working through the plan.

Above all, it means a diverse and balanced economy based on the innovation and entrepreneurship that lies at the heart of what makes Britain great.  The reason for so many success stories is down to our hundreds of thousands of aspirational entrepreneurs, working tirelessly and being bolstered by the conditions this Government is creating where their businesses can thrive and local expertise can flourish.

The new generation of Enterprise Zones epitomises this approach.

With significant tax breaks, simplified planning permission and superfast broadband, Enterprise Zones make it as easy as possible for new businesses to start up and grow quickly.

Those conditions are attracting massive investment like the £800 million being put into Manchester’s Airport City by a British-Chinese joint venture, creating 16,000 jobs, or the £500 million being invested in the Black Country by Jaguar Land Rover: one of the great British brands spearheading the recovery.

And today, I can unveil a series of further exciting new developments which show how Enterprise Zones are making a difference.

In Cambridgeshire local partners are close to planning approval for the Alconbury Enterprise Zone. On this site, where British bombers once flew out in defence of the nation, a new community will develop. 8,000 jobs will be created in the years to come and 5,000 new homes will be built.

At Newquay’s Enterprise Zone , Aerohub, ground has broken on Apple Aviation’s new 28,000 square foot of hangar, giving a major boost to the aircraft manufacturing and testing in the area. In addition, work is also about to start on American Search and Rescue company, Bristow’s, new hangar.

And in Bristol Temple Quarter, because of the City Deal, last week the council was able to approve a £91 million funding package to build a 12,000 seat venue in the heart of its Enterprise Zone. The venue will not only attract headline pop acts and talented musicians from across the world but millions of music lovers, breathing new life into the city’s historic heartland.

Enterprise Zones are just one of the ways we are making sure prosperity is shared fairly around the country.  We are also investing in infrastructure which is the bedrock of our economy, in the railways, roads and in digital technology which is so vital to the new economy through the Superfast Britain programme.

Across the country, our reforms are underpinning enterprise and innovation, and in turn regenerating high streets, creating new businesses and jobs and improving the opportunities of all those living in these thriving communities.

As I have said, there is still a long way to go. But Britain can continue to look forward to the future with confidence. In April, we’ll have the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7. And the biggest package of business rate support in more than twenty years that will help more small shops stay open and generate wealth for local economies.

Thousands of employers will no longer have to pay employers’ National Insurance contributions, meaning they take more people on and provide more families with financial security. The tax threshold will rise to £10,000. That means no one will pay tax for the £10,000 they earn. In short they take home more with every pay cheque.

I know from experience how much these changes will help. From behind the till at my father’s corner shop in Keighley I witnessed neighbours on a council estate working very hard for a wage and being able to keep their family secure because of that. It wasn’t easy at times but it had a big impact on me and since then, whether it has been as the Leader of Bradford Council, as an MP or as Secretary of State I have always believed that Government must create the right conditions to help anyone who wants to work hard and get on in life, to do so. It not only encourages economic growth but gives people the opportunity to support their own families.

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