Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis has written an article for the Barnsley Chronicle giving his thoughts on Barnsley's future.
Since taking my seat in the House of Commons as the newly elected MP for Barnsley Central, I have got straight down to work on building Barnsley’s future.
I see a future that will include a thriving 21st century market town; a future that sees our youngsters achieving their full potential; a future based on our shared sense of community. This is a defining moment in Barnsley’s history and I believe that together, we can write the next chapter.
In Barnsley we face great challenges in tackling unemployment, not just in the short term but also in the future. We currently have an undersized economy that was built for an age long gone. Industries such as mining are part of our rich history but sadly are not part of the bright future we crave.
At present, Barnsley lies in the shadow of Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield when it comes to higher-paid professional jobs. Too many people see these sectors as ‘not for them’ and instead opt for work in the more fragile, retail or construction industries. This must be addressed so we see the next generation of our children maximising their talents.
The biggest losers from last May’s General Election were the young people of Britain. In Barnsley, we must do all we can to lift aspiration – encouraging the next generation to fulfil their potential will always be a key priority for me.
The scrapping of the EMA, the Barnsley-inspired Future Jobs Fund and the trebling of university tuition fees, has sent a message to young people that the government won’t help them achieve their potential. I will.
Furthermore, the local council led by Steve Houghton, the Barnsley Development Agency led by Carol Cooper-Smith, local businesses, colleges such as Barnsley college and schools in the town, have already begun showing the strength of community to come together to ensure that our youngsters are not left behind.
It makes developments such as the "I Know I Can" movement all the more important. "I Know I Can" aims to raise aspirations and so enable young people to achieve everything possible at school, in their community and particularly in their future working life. As Councillor Linda Burgess explains; the "I Know I Can" movement provides opportunities for young people to develop skills and attitudes which will ensure they are employable and enterprising and can make their way successfully into adult and working life."
David Cameron’s economic plan is bad for Britain and bad for Barnsley. Last week’s figures show that the economy is no longer growing. Worse still, the construction industry is on its knees and these jobs show no signs of returning to Barnsley in the near future. It is why we have to move forward quickly to ensure that the town is on the road to real investment.
We should aim to become Yorkshire’s epicentre of the digital and low carbon economies, which would create hundreds of jobs and bring greater wealth to our region. Another area where the government are getting it badly wrong is on the issue of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships get people into the working environment, working frame of mind and they teach practical skills, which open up doors to various career paths. I want to build on this, which is why I backed Ed Miliband’s call for a repeat of the Bankers Bonus tax. The tax would have raised £600m that could have been spent on the Youth Jobs Fund and created 6 month jobs for 90,000 18-24 year olds.
George Osborne refused to do this, sticking to the Thatcherite policy that unemployment is a price worth paying. I will do all I can to prevent this from happening in Barnsley. That is why I am calling on local investors to open their doors for flexible paid work and, crucially, open their doors to apprentices. The Tories often claim that government cannot create jobs, mirroring their shameful worship of the market over society in the 1980s. It is a view that proves how out of touch they are with hard-working people in Barnsley. Of course the government can and must help us to become investable for private sector businesses.
In addition to ensuring investment and jobs in our town, we should also look at ways in which we can make the people of Barnsley a more mobile workforce. That requires government to ensure there are affordable, regular and reliable transport links in place to connect Barnsley with Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and elsewhere. I think more should be done to make it easier for people to travel to and from work, but I don’t want to see Barnsley become a ‘dormitory town’. Creating decent jobs here is the answer, contributing to, not detracting from the economy.Vince Cable’s lack of direction on how to open Britain for business is hurting but it isn’t working.
There has to be a more focused investment from private sector companies in towns like Barnsley, to drive down unemployment. A more effectively targeted programme of investment where the need is greatest, not where there is already investment, can provide a real boost to employment figures. At present, 97.6% of small businesses in Barnsley have fewer than 50 employees and 99.5% of small and medium sized businesses have fewer than 250 employees. I’m supportive of any mechanism that makes Barnsley a more attractive place to invest and would support tax breaks to businesses who want to give the people of Barnsley an opportunity to work and raise their standard of living. I also want to help the businesses that are already in Barnsley to expand if they wish.
In my first two months in Parliament, I have become the Chair of Labour’s backbench committee on Business and am also a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills, Select Committee. Every single day I am working hard to find new ideas, new businesses and new answers to become part of Barnsley’s solution. The government is getting it badly wrong. We can show them how to get it right. I’m proud to call Barnsley my home. I am proud to speak up for the people of Barnsley in Parliament. The strength of place and community, the pride in our history and the optimism about our future, makes me confident that together, we can create the next chapter in our history.