Derbyshire Times Column

As published in the Derbyshire Times, 13th June 2013

We had some good economic news last week, with the announcement that the UK service sector grew at the fastest rate since March 2012. This is in addition to the news that the manufacturing sector grew at its fastest rate in a year, and the construction sector returning to growth after six months of contraction. Coupled with encouraging Q1 growth, these figures show that despite difficult challenges, we’re getting the economy back on track.

Unemployment continues to fall in Amber Valley, and we have created 1.2 million jobs in the UK’s private sector. The deficit has now fallen by a third – up from a quarter – since the election, showing that our plan is working.

Last week also saw the Labour Party u-turn on its welfare policy, with Ed Miliband now admitting that we need to control welfare spending.

While it’s encouraging that Mr Miliband has admitted that they got it wrong on welfare, he still hasn’t spelled out much in terms of how they plan to get the welfare budget under control. They have said they’d accept our necessary child benefit cap, means test winter fuel payments, and consider George Osborne’s proposal of an overall welfare budget cap over the course of each parliament. However, they have offered little more in terms of solid proposals that will stop the welfare budget, as we have, rising exponentially like it did under the previous administration. They still continue to oppose the bulk of our reforms.

This Government is committed to making work pay through the universal credit system and increasing the personal allowance, reforming disability benefits to focus on what work people can rather than can’t do, and capping overall welfare payments so that a family can’t receive more out of work than the average family earns in work. We’re acting on welfare and we’re on the side of hard-working people, while the Labour Party continues to shy away from the detail.

Over the past year I’ve been contacted by constituents concerned about the proposed wind turbine in Wheatcroft. I have a lot of sympathy for the concerns of these residents, because on-shore wind turbines can greatly affect the aesthetics of an area. I don’t think that local people should feel bullied in to accepting proposals that they don’t want. That’s why I welcome last week’s news that the Government is to overhaul the planning procedure for these developments, along with providing incentives for local residents to accept them.

Changes from the Department for Communities and Local Government now mean that guidance will now state that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and planning concerns of local people. More weight will be given to landscape and visual concerns, along with new pre-application compulsory consultations for large projects.

Also encouraging is news that local people will be given some of the proceeds raised by the wind turbines, saving households up to £400 per year on their energy bills. Providing local communities with greater decision-making powers, along with these incentives, ensures that we will have the right balance between renewable energy and community choice.