This week I took part in a Zoom conference with Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, to focus on our county's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Even despite the massive Government investment into the local economy, jobs have been lost. Radical action is needed to replace them.
The Treasury has announced a "kickstart scheme" as part of a three-point plan for jobs, to help our country bounce back. It will allow young people the opportunity to build their skills in the workplace, and to gain experience that will improve their chances of going on to find long-term sustainable work. That’s essential, because we know that periods of unemployment as a young person risk lifetime harm.
So this scheme represents a down payment in young people's futures.
Here in Cheltenham, we have a great opportunity to accelerate our local pivot towards the cyber sector, which has held up remarkably well during the pandemic. This cyber vision, first set out at local IT firm Converge in 2014, is now taking shape and Cheltenham has the potential to generate hundreds of quality jobs close to home.
We also need to, in the modern cliché, build back better. That means vouchers of up to £5,000 for energy-saving home improvements as part of a wider £3bn plan to cut emissions.
Cheltenham, after all, is responsible for the UK law which committed our country to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2020, making us the first nation in the G7 to do so.
The Green Homes Grant scheme will provide extra work for plumbers, builders and tradesmen. Cheltenham homeowners will be able to spend the cash on insulation, eco-friendly boilers, heat pumps, double-glazed windows, low-energy lighting and energy-efficient doors.
In support of this, the landmark Environment Bill will create and restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat as well as planting more than 40 million trees and restore 35,000 hectares of peatland in England.
For jobs and the environment, let us seize these opportunities.