Cheltenham is enjoying its strongest economy in years with a big drop in unemployment, local businesses reporting healthy order books and both businesses and householders still enjoying low interest rates and mortgage payments. Martin has backed both the coalition government and Cheltenham's LibDem-led council in taking the tough decisions necessary to build sustainable prosperity and worked hard to lobby for and promote local business.
Watch Martin promoting Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce's new business centre here:
In 2010, the new coalition government inherited a massive financial crisis from the last Labour government. Whoever you blame, the situation in the 2009/10 financial year was that:
- Government was spending £153 billion pounds* a year more than it was raising
- This represented 10.2%* of GDP (the value of the economy)
- If this hadn't been brought under control, our economy would quickly have gone the way of Greece and others and our interest rates - which set the cost of borrowing by businesses as well as your mortgage - might have skyrocketed, doing serious damage to the economy, increasing the cost of living for homeowners and throwing millions out of work
- Unemployment in Cheltenham was already 2251 or 4.5%**, the highest in years
To strengthen the economy, Martin and the Liberal Democrats backed the tough decisions - opposed by Labour - which have brought public spending under control, reduced that overspend by a third and reassured financial markets so that business borrowing and mortgage rates in Cheltenham were kept low as we fought off recession. Today:
- Government overspending is expected to be £91.3 billion in 2014/15*, still very high but down by a massive £61 billion a year
- This represents 5% of GDP* - half the value it was five years ago
The economy has the fastest growing economy of any of the G7 group of major economies, growing 2.6% last year and estimated to keep growing at 2.5% this year
- Earnings have finally started to go up too. Together with the fall in fuel prices, this will help everyone by bringing the cost of living down this year. The Office of Budget Responsibility now confirm living standards will be higher in 2015 than they were in 2010.
- Unemployment in Cheltenham has fallen to 854 or just 1.6%**. Overall the UK has the strongest employment growth in the G7. The number of young people claiming unemployment benefits is now at its lowest since the 1970s.
Sources: * Office of Budget Responsibility ** Department of Work & Pensions
But a stronger economy isn't just a fast-growing one - it must be sustainable too:
- The Coalition launched the world's first Green Investment Bank and locked investment in low-carbon energy into energy markets through the Energy Act and has created a record number of green jobs. In Cheltenham, Martin has backed local companies like Tidal Lagoon Power and Commercial who have pioneered sustainable jobs and business
- The coalition has created more than 2 million new apprenticeships, 2,610 of them in Cheltenham, building skills for the future
- Whether we were still in recession or growing again, the coalition kept investing in infrastructure, maintaining spending on public transport and committing another £6 billion investment to flood defences, including more flood defence work in Cheltenham to protect another 240 properties
- The coalition has committed to the largest ever sustained investment in Britain’s science base, including a £2.9 billion Grand Challenges fund to enable the UK to invest in major research facilities
And the economy is stronger locally too. Cheltenham's LibDem council has faced cuts along with other local authorities - their net budget has fallen in cash terms by about 12% in the last seven years, from £16.1m to £14.2m - but despite the cuts, there has been no crisis at Cheltenham Borough Council:
- £8.5m has been found in savings and additional income and 'austerity' has had little impact on frontline services. Savings have been made by radical management efficiencies, sharing back office functions and major functions like waste collection with other councils, and turning arts and leisure management over to a charitable trust of which Martin is now an unpaid trustee.
- Martin and the borough council worked together to win major new investment in developments like the Brewery, North Place and in local transport, including £5m for local sustainable transport, £45m for the redoubling of the Swindon/Kemble line to improve services to Swindon, Reading and London and an ambitious plan to upgrade parking, access and facilities at Cheltenham Spa station which has now won widespread backing.
In stark contrast, The Conservative-led county council has lurched from crisis to crisis - taken to court over its library closures, signing up to a wasteful incinerator contract then turned down by its own councillors, slapping new on-street parking charges on small business areas and leaving our roads in a total mess.
Martin has lobbied for and promoted local companies from publisher Edward Elgar to worldbeating clothes retailer SuperDry to cleaning products firm Premiere Products to engineering firms like Spirax Sarco, DIS and CF Roberts to IT firms like Innov8ive software. He has worked with business organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, Gfirst LEP and Cheltenham Connect to promote and support local business.
He has promoted Cheltenham’s Festivals in Parliament with an eye to drawing even more valuable visitors to the town and encouraged council backing for areas like the Lower High Street that deserve more support. He has supported a more determined strategy to market Cheltenham to visitors, investors and relocating businesses.