You have to be pretty flinty hearted not to enjoy the Christmas spirit in Cathedral Square – a “town centre” to be proud of and as good as any in our country I might add.
I believe that we can look forward with a lot more optimism in 2015 than we perhaps did at the start of 2014. Primarily, people mostly feel a little more confident about the economy and their own families’ financial prospects and are looking beyond the gloom of the last few years.
There’s a good reason for this. We have historically high jobs growth, new business formations, record apprenticeships and in my own constituency, fewer than 3% registered jobless. People parked, often for years, on benefits are being encouraged to re-train and get back into employment with a personalised service, and regaining their self-esteem and pride as a result. Welfare reform is bringing this about despite virulent opposition. There’s nothing “fair” about welfare handouts that consign people to the margins of society and decry their potential.
Last week it was confirmed unemployment had fallen a further 1,454 in the last year alone. We are providing hardworking families with the security of a pay packet and I am proud that Peterborough has seen a 56% fall in unemployment since 2010 and a staggering 66% drop in youth joblessness.
A look round the city centre this Christmas demonstrated the most positive buzz that we have seen for several years. New restaurants are opening, there is an improving cultural life in our area, stores like Waitrose are expanding and we are at last seeing plans for the development of good quality residential housing, not just in suburban and rural areas, but in the city centre as well.
Predictably, my political opponents have a vested interest in a negative outlook on everything – especially Labour. For them, economic progress - growing living standards, cheaper fuel and food, wages outstripping inflation – is a rebuke to their prediction that prudently paying down their deficit and reforming welfare to make work pay, would lead to massive unemployment, economic paralysis and a dearth of private sector jobs being created. In fact, quite the opposite has happened in Peterborough and across the UK.
2015 brings a General Election in May. Contrary to lazy received wisdom, not all politicians and political parties are the same. The election will present voters with the starkest division between the main parties in a generation and that’s how it should be. Politics is about ideas and visions and it’s not light entertainment.
In the meantime, Happy New Year!
- Peterborough’s MP writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph