I would like to start this column by paying tribute to Commander Eddie Grenfell, who sadly passed away recently.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. I was very proud to campaign for an Arctic Convoy medal alongside him and The News and am pleased that he lived to see the success of the campaign.
A key plank of the work of the Lib Dems in the coalition has been to help increase the number of private sector jobs – up by one million since 2010. So, although, recent years have been tough financially, Britain has withstood the international recession better than many with unemployment rates below those of the Eurozone countries overall and a quarter of those in Greece and Spain.
But of great concern to me is that the local Remploy factory closure means the loss of 12 jobs for disabled people. I have already had meetings with the staff and will continue to push for them to be found new jobs.
Unemployment can be soul-destroying for people of all ages, but maybe especially the young as they struggle to get started in life.
So now the Lib Dems are campaigning to double the 100,000 businesses that have taken on apprentices with government backing.
If you’re a local business, I would urge you to investigate apprenticeships.
The Lib Dem city council has also been successful in getting central funding for infrastructure projects such as the Tipner regeneration, which in turn unlocks more private sector funding. The Lib Dems are also boosting the tourist economy including five million seafront visits by backing the Pyramids and also the Kings Theatre with a capital grant.
Plus we have helped keep the football club going, a significant economic driver for the city, with a loan. All these were opposed by Labour.
And with government funding, the Solent Enterprise Zone is creating or safeguarding 300 jobs and 60 apprenticeships in the aviation, marine and aerospace sectors with the aim of 3,500 over the next 15 years.