At a meeting in Westminster this week with Bedford Borough Youth Cabinet, I was challenged with ‘What are the three most important things you can do for young people in your constituency?’
The group had already covered a lot of ground; issues affecting young carers, crime and their transport costs had already come up. They are all important. But, considering an MP’s responsibilities, I chose access to work, to education and housing.
This week’s news that the UK’s growth forecast had improved again is important for jobs, for young and not so young alike. The unemployment rate in NE Bedfordshire is now 2.1 per cent, down for all by about 30 per cent, with a rather higher fall for those aged 18-24. The best thing I could do for them was support the economic policies that lead them to have that greater chance of a first job and good start. My recent visits to manufacturing and a cutting edge research facility demonstrate the breadth of work in our area.
On education I told the group that when I was their age one in eight of us went into HE. Now it is nearly one in two. The choices of course of study are wider than ever before. Government policies allowing innovation and management change are helping.
The housing story is not so good. My wife and I bought our first house, a three-bedroom semi in Bury, when I was 28 years old, at a cost of some £26,000. It’s not like that now. There is no easy answer to the issues of changing and increasing demand for housing, but Bedfordshire and the government have been doing their bit by finding more space for new housing, trying to find innovative ways to get young people started, while seeking to balance competing interests thrown up by planning.
The youth cabinet contained bright, committed young people. I hope I did my best with their questions.