Francis Maude: wonderful individual success stories

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

It was A-level results day last Thursday – a nerve-wracking occasion for students and parents alike. Some students will have received a passport to their university of choice, others will have entered the fraught world of clearing.

Whatever the situation, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all local students the best of luck for whatever path they have chosen.

A quick glance at, among others, the Collyer’s and Christ’s Hospital websites, show some wonderful individual success stories – students excelling in nurturing environments with dedicated staff and excellent pastoral care. Of course it’s not all about universities. Many local students are also embarking on apprenticeships and other forms of vocational training. There are so many different approaches to stepping on to that all-important career ladder.

As a Government, looking to boost our economy and put us in the best position to succeed in the global race, education, universities and apprenticeships are key. National statistics show that unemployment in April to June was 2.51m (7.8 per cent of all economically active) – down 4,000 from the previous quarter. The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance decreased by 29,200 between June and July to 1.44m people aged 18 or over, the lowest level since February 2009.

But what’s the situation locally? In July, 851 people across the Horsham Parliamentary constituency were registered as unemployed – 219 lower than July 2012 and 45 lower than in June of this year; 851 people is the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of the economically active population aged 16 to 64 which puts us 616th highest of 650 UK constituencies.

On to another local, indeed, national, matter – the protests in Balcombe. The situation really changed on Monday with newly arrived activists embarking upon a day of direct action – even Green MP, Caroline Lucas got herself arrested and into the headlines.

My thoughts will be covered elsewhere in the County Times but I’d like to make clear to readers that I’m sorry that the genuine concerns and peaceful protests of Balcombe residents have been drowned out by illegal direct action by organisations who have no direct interest in the locality.

My constituents in Balcombe are entitled to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed by the regulators. The company also have a right to carry out an activity which has been subjected to the full rigour of regulatory scrutiny.

As for the demonstration at my Horsham office, Gough House, this was one of the most pointless exercises I have come across. The only effect was to cause distress and hassle to our hardworking dedicated team, and to waste even more police time and precious resources.