Wokingham Times, 16 October

This week brings a new station to Wokingham. It’s been a long wait, with plenty of disappointments on the way, but it was worth waiting for. I have also had the pleasure of looking at the new surgery complex taking shape between Rose Street and Peach Street. This will offer better rooms and facilities for users of GP services in the town. Work is also now proceeding on the improvements to the buildings at the end of Rose Street close to the Town Hall.

It’s curious how these three projects helping to define a smarter public sector working in collaboration with the private have come together as the UK economy generally starts to show its recovery paces. The crane and skip count is rising in London and the south east. More new homes are being built. Construction is making a growing contribution to jobs and incomes.

On a recent visit to Bracknell and Wokingham College I asked about the numbers interested in training for construction jobs, given the likelihood of more openings as the rebuilding of Wokingham proceeds. I met young people learning carpentry and plumbing skills, amongst the trades we will need as the work develops. It will be good if more of the employees that will be required can come from local families looking for employment.

It looks as if the last three months have been better ones for the economy generally. Retail spending is up a bit and there is more life in the housing market. Some have written to me , worried about the Help to Buy scheme. Let me reassure you. The Help to Buy scheme is not a subsidy to drive house prices higher. The government offers a guarantee on part of the deposit so someone can get started without having a large sum to put down, but the bank has to pay the taxpayers for the guarantee so the taxpayer should not lose from it. The homebuyer has to pay for the loan in the usual way.

This help may well be on offer for a limited time, to get the housing market working better. I want many more people to have the opportuntiy of owning their own home, and am glad the government shares this aspiration. After the credit crunch the despoits became too high for many young people to afford, so something had to be done.