At this Christmas time, when we recall the birth of Our Saviour, and as the New Year approaches, it might be helpful to look back on the twelve months past and evaluate the prospects for the coming year.
The economic picture is not perfect, but getting rosier every month. Employment is now at a new record high of 73.9 per cent, with full-time jobs driving the highest employment rate since records began. Prospects are brighter for young people as well, with the youth unemployment rate for those not in full time education falling to 5.8 per cent, again the lowest on record. While inflation was recorded at zero per cent, pay has increased by 2.4 per cent in the last year.
Here in the Gainsborough constituency, the latest statistics released show 200 fewer people claiming the Jobseekers Allowance compared to a year before, which is down 536 from five years ago.
Not only are people working, but they’re keeping more of what they earn. The Government put into law its commitment not to raise VAT, National Insurance, or Income Tax for the next five years. On top of this, the personal allowance of how much money you can make before paying any income tax at all will rise to £11,000 from next April, taking 570,000 out of income tax completely.
Aside from these matters of national prosperity, we’ve secured victories against wind farm applications here in Lincolnshire. I’m pleased that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has continually backed the local decision-making authorities like West Lindsey District Council against potentially expensive appeals by rich energy companies.
We argued again and again for a more fair funding structure for our schools, and only just recently heard good news in the shape of the new funding formula the Department for Education announced, which is a marked improvement on the previously existing one.
My fellow rural MPs and I have fought very hard to ensure a better and quicker rollout of broadband access to country areas, so that businesses, families, and entrepreneurs in our part of the country will have just as much opportunities to take advantage of the internet as those in London and other urban areas.
And in the midst of all this we fought and won a general election victory in May. I would like to thank all my volunteers, supporters, and voters for their efforts across the constituency and the county over a long campaign. Despite the fact that I have served the people of the Gainsborough constituency for over thirty years, it was heartening to see my majority increased by fifty per cent.
With the year 2016 dawning before us, Lincolnshire, England, and the entire United Kingdom can look forward to brighter prospects in the year to come. There will be numerous challenges ahead as well, but the economic prosperity increasing across the country will leave us better placed to confront those challenges head on. I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Sir Edward Leigh MP