During the week I had a very positive meeting to discuss Burnley’s local economy with Charlie Briggs and Steve Rumbelow, the leader and chief executive respectively, of Burnley Council.
The signs here are really encouraging. A report presented to Burnley Council’s Economic Scrutiny Committee that showed unemployment in our town is down by 11% and vacancies at the Jobcentre are up by 12% on the previous year. You can read the full report on the Burnley Council website. One reason for these positive signs is that Burnley is a manufacturing town and manufacturing in the UK is continuing to grow. The CBI recently stated manufacturing is healthier than it has been in the past 20 years. I welcome the Government’s efforts to move the UK’s economy away from an over-reliance on banking and finance, towards a focus on manufacturing and exports. This commitment is driving up growth in Burnley and I am confident the UK economy can and will rebalance itself away from financial services in the next few years.
Back in Westminster, I continued to fight for the full return of our Accident and Emergency facility to Burnley. While Burnley’s urgent care centre is being upgraded, meaning more ambulances will be sent here, I am still very concerned Burnley residents are simply not getting the service they deserve. It is also clear Blackburn cannot cope with the increased patient numbers. I hear horror stories from patients there on a daily basis and will not stop until the full A and E is restored.
A recent report by the College of Emergency Medicine said – very clearly – that if a hospital A and E unit is to be downgraded to an urgent care centre, the nearest A and E unit should be no more than 12 miles away.
As residents in Burnley are now on average 16 to 23 miles away from the nearest A and E at Blackburn, this clearly goes against the guidance of the highly-respected college. This situation is completely unacceptable and on Monday I stood up in the House of Commons and asked the Secretary of State if he would look again at A and E units like Burnley that were downgraded by the previous Government in light of the College of Emergency Medicine report. Mr Lansley’s response was encouraging – he has promised to look into the matter with John Heyworth of the College of Emergency Medicine.
On Wednesday, I met a group called Green Alliance, a group promoting green energy. It was a very interesting meeting. We discussed the Green Investment Bank, a policy being driven forward by the Lib-Dem Secretary of State for Climate Change Chris Huhne. It will be a very positive move for the environment and UK public. The bank would basically provide organisations with the money they need for technology and projects to help the UK move to a low carbon economy. A great deal of investment in infrastructure will be needed in the next 10 years – the Government estimates more than £110bn of investment is needed in new power stations and grid upgrades over the next decade. This level of funding is vital to ensure we keep the lights on, meet legal obligations to reduce our carbon emissions, and keep costs to the British people as low as possible. These changes would simply not take place without help from the Government and it is another key manifesto pledge the Liberal Democrats in Government have been able to deliver.
I also met representatives from the ship-building industry. This is an industry which it is vital the UK does not lose. Many local companies are sub-contractors to the big ship-building industries, making parts used in this industry, so it is vital for Burnley they are supported.