I spent this morning at a Get Britain Working Forum that Helen Grant, our fantastic prospective candidate in Maidstone, organised. There were about 100 people there and the discussion really brought home to me how difficult these times are for small businesses and families.
I’ve spoken to lots of people in my constituency and elsewhere during the Christmas break and the anxiety about what this year will bring is obvious. In Maidstone it was no different. We talked about how HIPs are slowing down the housing market, how empty property rates can be crippling for businesses and are damaging investment in commercial property.
We also had a discussion about skills where one lady told us she’d been unemployed and taken part in training under the New Deal but it didn’t provide training for necessary skills. Her views were backed up by an employer who said that people coming off the New Deal just weren’t qualified enough to hire. Their experiences show that the Government is continuing to fail in this important area.
The issue that really made people angry was the scarcity of bank lending and how the government’s efforts have had little effect. The discussion highlighted the importance of restoring good lending practice among the banks. The Government really needs to get credit flowing urgently.
We also heard about the policies that Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council are implementing to help businesses and families in this difficult economic time. It was a great example of how local authorities and local communities are pulling together during the downturn.