Article for Wokingham Times

All the talk in Westminster is of “shovel ready” building work. The government is keen to give the economy a push by allowing or initiating new projects. They want better roads, more power stations, faster broadband, improved railways, new free schools and new homes. They are trying everything to see how they can stimulate this activity.

Locally we see people pressing on with the large project at Reading station. It is now taking shape. We have had a new fire station headquarters for Wokingham, a new free school at Ryeish Green and can look forward to the start of the Wokingham Town Centre facelift and expansion. We may even get the often promised new railway station. Faster broadband is edging its way round our homes and district. Ministers are keen to see us do more and build more, and have had conversations with the Council about the next phase of their plans.

The government has announced a massive £80 billion of money to help the banks, so they can lend it on to companies and institutions who need it for these kinds of projects. They are hoping to tap into longer term investment by pension funds. Recently we put through a piece of legislation authorising the government to spend up to £50 billion, another huge sum, on ways of helping finance major new infrastructure schemes.

So why isn’t more happening nationally? The UK still finds it takes a long time to decide what to do and how to do it. Give us a task like building an Olympic Park to a deadline, and we surprised ourselves. The industry did it magnificently. Give us the problem of how much runway capacity to put into London and the South-east, and we spend years arguing over how much we need and where it should be put. Ask us how to keep the lights on, and we find Lib Dems and Conservatives in disagreement about how much power people should be allowed and how cheap it should be, with the Lib Dem Secretary of State favouring dearer energy. We also find the EU telling us to go for dearer power, at exactly the same time as the USA and the developing world pushes for cheaper power. As a result we are losing industrial jobs from the UK, with Tata Steel announcing more job losses and explaining that energy costs are the main reason they are going to put the jobs elsewhere.

The banks are still not financing a stronger recovery. Small and medium sized enterprises are finding it difficult to raise the money they need to grow, or fear there will not be sufficient demand. Larger companies often have plenty of cash and good profits, but they are afraid they need to put much more of their cash into their pension funds, thanks to the ultra low interest rates created by the government. These same interest rates, planned to help us grow, are doing plenty of damage to the pension funds who need better returns and suffer from low rates in the way they work out the pension deficits.

I have set out my views again on how we might move to faster growth, and will lobby the Chancellor ahead of his Autumn statement and next year’s budget. There is much more to do.

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5 Comments

  1. Simon George
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Cycling and walking should be the norm for all short journeys.

    The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has said people should shun their cars if a trip could be done in 15 or 20 minutes on foot or bike.

    It said the approach was needed to combat the “silent epidemic” of inactivity posing a risk to the health of people in England.

    The advisory body has called on councils to do more to make walking and cycling an easier option in local communities.
    smoking.

    Latest figures suggest six in 10 men and seven in 10 women are not doing the recommended levels of physical activity.

    The figures are little better for children.

    In particular, levels of cycling and walking are falling – with England lagging well behind other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. Only 11 minutes a day on average is spent cycling or walking.

    Prof Mike Kelly, from NICE, said: “As a nation, we are not physically active enough and this can contribute to a wide range of health problems.”

    Dr John Middleton, vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, said cycling and walking needed to be made an “easy option”.

    Local transport minister Norman Baker added the new duty on councils should make it easier to ensure transport, planning and health officials worked together to help change the way people travel.

    “We want to see more people walking and cycling,” he added.

    People won’t start cycling until they feel the roads are safe for them to do so. Yet still you call on money to be spent on roads for motorists rather than cycling infrastructure.

    Reply As someone who walks a lot, there is plenty of pavement space not being used.

    • Simon George
      Posted November 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      The point is that we utilise the space available to encourage more walking and cycling instead of motoring.

  2. i albion
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Well building a few thousand social houses around Mr Nick Boles home would be a good start Mr Redwood.

  3. David Langley
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I gather the cabinet were unhappy with each other yesterday at the lack of substantive progress with all these necessary policies. Perhaps its because they are MPs and that is their day job and only skill. I find it amazing that Cameron cannot connect with reality over the practicalities of what he is rightly trying to achieve. Its no use offering apprenticeships without a job, agencies cannot train and place candidates in a no job environment. Employers will not train apprentices if they are one step from insolvency. Get the government off industries and SME,s back. Cut VAT, NI, EU regulations, Corporation Tax, etc etc, we need can do businesses the rest flows. Use the money to support incubator businesses with no strings attached
    I note with pleasure the facts that thousands of benefit seekers who refused jobs were refused benefits. I hope you lot have connected with the obvious to me fact that they can refuse jobs because they are working in the black economy and benefits were their pocket money and just added to the beer and fags etc. Does the government think the plebs havent worked this one out years ago? Now if you follow the refusenicks to their domains you will soon find out where the real economy is growing. It might even suggest why some statistics are driving the Government bean counters OBR etc mad, like inflation where there should be deflation. There is money out there and many do not want the government to have it.

  4. K.Piggott
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    We need cheaper energy not wind farms there are 20,000 wind turbines lying idle and rusting away in the US since they cut the subsidies. When my kids are freezing because of high energy costs so the companies can make huge profits I don’t give a damn about
    Mr Clegg and his millionaire friends who want green expensive energy they don’t live in the real world like the rest of us. What is the point of building GAS powered power stations when we are running out of gas? WE need NUCLEAR power as it is cheap. We don’t live in an earthquake Zone nor are we going to have a Sunami. Or open up the coal mines again build new clean coal burning power stations and give employment as well as making us self sufficient in power.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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