Francis Maude: Vision for a ‘land of opportunity’

Horsham MP Francis Maude

Horsham MP Francis Maude

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My spirits were high last week as I made my way to Manchester for the Conservative Party conference. With the next general election on the horizon, I was very much looking forward to hearing my colleagues’ announcements about this Government’s achievements over the last three years. Looking back on last week’s events, I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Boris Johnson’s usual antics certainly helped lighten the mood in Manchester. But it was the positive message about the state of the economy, and our country as a whole, that gave us true cause for celebration. As the Chancellor pointed out, we have already cut the deficit by a third and aim to have an absolute surplus by the next Parliament.

Clearly, then, although we still have a long way to go, Britain is starting to bounce back.

As for the Prime Minister’s speech, his vision of Britain as a ‘land of opportunity’ is one that really resonated with me and, in my view, is already starting to become a reality. Since this Government came to office, we have seen 1.4 million more private sector jobs, 300,000 more small businesses, and a record number of people starting apprenticeships.

And I’m proud to say that Horsham is also actively contributing to this business revival. Within the past two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of opening the new Client Innovation Centre at the Horsham HQ of Damovo - a company at the forefront of ICT solutions for both the public and private sector and with a long successful history of investing in apprentices.

Today many senior employees are former apprentices – a fact which would certainly incentivise me if I were a young jobseeker in Horsham - and hopefully prompt businesses of every sort in the district to make apprenticeships part of their story. It’s a partnership that works both ways. In Damovo’s case it’s apparent that the company’s efforts to promote the value of apprenticeships to the wider community has boosted its profile, leading to being recognised for the past two years as one of the ‘Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers’ in a list compiled by the National Apprenticeship Service in conjunction with City & Guilds.

On a completely different note – a bench has appeared at the bus stop in Lambs Farm Road to the delight of a 90 year old with whom I share a passion for cricket. ‘This will help my father maintain his independence’ said a happy constitutent, who rang my office with this excellent news.