We are here to talk about the economy and the economy means numbers. In Aylesbury, 14,500 jobs have been protected by the Government’s furlough scheme and almost 5,000 local people have benefited from the self-employed income support scheme. That is good news. However, there are worrying numbers, too. Not everyone has been able to access Government help and jobs have already been lost. The unadjusted claimant count in Aylesbury in May was two and a half times higher than in March, and in the 18 to 24-year-old age group the rate of increase in unemployment was even greater. That is why the kick-start scheme announced today by the Chancellor will be extremely welcome in my constituency, as will his entire plan for jobs, jobs, jobs.
Behind the numbers are the names: the people who have continued to work throughout the coronavirus crisis to help to keep the local economy on its feet and prepare it for the future. People like Diana Fawcett, the town centre manager, who has inspired and assisted the market stall holders and independent traders, many of whom have benefited from the bounce back loan scheme. The people who have continued to invest, ready for the return of a more normal life. People like Karman and Greig at the Harrow pub, who served takeaways so they could afford to redecorate and draw in new customers, and who will now benefit from the VAT cut on hospitality and “eat out to help out”. Or Ben Moult, who has seen a gap in the night-time economy and converted a clothes shop into a restaurant with Buckinghamshire’s first roof terrace bar. Or councillors Bill Chapple and Steve Bowles and the teams they lead at Aylesbury Garden Town, which promises to be smart, sustainable, accessible and inclusive. Or students at Aylesbury’s university technical college, who will be the next generation of apprentices bringing much needed vocational skills to construction and computing.
There is a theme underlying those numbers and names: a theme of resilience and readiness for the economic challenges ahead. Thousands of houses are planned locally which will contribute to the Prime Minister’s ambition to build back greener, with an eco-friendly approach to help answer the concerns of the passionate campaigners from last week’s “The Time Is Now” mass lobby. The local plan already embraces the change heralded by the new planning regulations announced last week, which will transform our town centres into community hubs where people want to live, work, visit and invest.
To make all that a reality requires, yes, infrastructure funding from central Government to get our traffic flowing and ensure we have the schools and the health centres we need for our fast growing population, but our economy is not just about money. For our future success we need a spirit of entrepreneurship where risk-takers are rewarded. We need bold thinkers with imagination about what our towns are for. In Aylesbury, we have them. In Aylesbury, we stand read to be at the forefront of initiatives to build a new economy.