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It is always a pleasure to follow my neighbour, Yvonne Fovargue. What she says about debt and the issues around debt needs to be addressed.
On this final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, it is right that we focus on the economy, which underlies and funds all the vital public services on which we depend. Without a strong economy we would not be able to invest in law and order to recruit 20,000 extra police officers. I agree with the Prime Minister’s focus on reforming sentencing, and we also need the 10,000 additional prison places. That is a key part of what we can do with a stronger, more robust economy.
There is more money for education, with £14 billion to level up standards and to level up investment in education right across the country.
A stronger economy delivers for our local communities, too. The Mayor of Greater Manchester created the town centre challenge fund a couple of years ago, and I wanted Atherton in my constituency to receive money to improve our town centre. Unfortunately, Wigan Council, which has been running the show so badly for such a long time, said that Atherton town centre needs so much more work than the fund can afford that it had decided not even to put Atherton forward for the funding. The contrast between the leadership of Wigan Council and the leadership of Bolton Council is profound.
I am pleased the Government are championing the cause of our towns. For so many years we have heard about the north-south divide, and we are increasingly hearing about the divide between our cities and our towns. I am pleased the Government are supporting Bolton with £25 million from the stronger towns fund, which is incredibly important. The future high streets fund is also investing up to £150,000 in the town centres of Bolton and Farnworth. Such rebalancing between our cities and towns is important.
The leadership of Bolton Council is looking after the smaller towns and villages in the borough of Bolton, as well as looking to secure £1.2 billion of investment in Bolton. As the centre of our borough, it is important that we get investment in Bolton. The council is also investing £4 million each in four of our smaller towns and local centres to make sure our local towns get the investment they need. It is about rebalancing the north and south and rebalancing our cities and towns, but it also about rebalancing between the larger towns and smaller towns in boroughs such as Bolton.
I am pleased the Government have a strong focus on health, which is incredibly important. I am particularly pleased to see the investment to create a medical training college in Bolton. Bolton College, Bolton University, the local clinical commissioning group and Bolton Council have a vision for investment in health, which is so important to the country.