Claire Perry, MP for Devizes - Pilot scheme will ensure youth have the key skills

Did you shop locally on Saturday? From the heaving High Streets locally it looked like many of us did, proving that Small Business Saturday was a great success. Now we have to keep the momentum going for the rest of the year, supporting local businesses and services where possible.

Also heaving was the Burbage Christmas tree sale, now in its 19th year and bigger than ever, with more than 2,000 visitors buying 700 freshly cut local trees (which can be recycled in January at the same location) and also eating more than ten tins of Santa’s Quality Street sweets! We also had visits from the Pewsey Belles choir who sang beautifully in the winter air and it was a wonderful event, ably organised by George and a willing team of volunteers. I enjoyed selling trees and buying Christmas presents and was happy to be at home in Wiltshire after a frenzied week in Westminster.

The main business last week was the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in which we heard that growth forecasts for Britain have been upgraded to the highest level for all developed economies, employment is rising due to private sector job growth and debt is falling faster than planned – all proof that the job of fixing our economy is working – but that the biggest risk for Britain comes from those who would abandon the plan, and borrow and spend more. We also heard about more welcome help for hard-working people, including reducing the burden of business rates that will help the High Street and will support businesses to create more jobs and that the government is going to freeze petrol duty again until 2015, saving the average motorist pounds every time they fill up.

Along with frozen rail fares, and measures to cut an average of £50 from our energy bills, we are seeing real and sensible measures to boost disposable income.

As importantly, the Statement also delivered more welcome help for young people with a welcome scrapping of employers’ National Insurance for under-21s and an announcement that JobCentres will help 16 and 17-year-olds not in work find an apprenticeship or a traineeship. There will also be a pilot so anyone aged 18 to 21 who does not have basic maths or English has to undertake training immediately or lose benefits –underpinning the importance of getting these important skills as a foundation in life.

I will hold several advice surgeries over the Christmas period so do call my local office on (01380) 729358 if you would like an appointment.

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