March 29th, 2015

Wakefield Hospice 10K

There was an amazing turnout this morning for the Wakefield Hospice 10k.

I joined members of my Morley & Outwood team to start and then complete the race – and I made it round in 59 minutes 48 seconds.

But of course the main reason for the race is to raise money for this brilliant local charity.  Wakefield Hospice does amazing work across our area supporting local people and their families.

At the finish line with the team and Look North's Harry Gration

Last year we raised £1,179 – this year we’re aiming to do at least the same again to reach a combined total of £2,500. You can make a donation to support the great work of Wakefield Hospice here.

Posted March 29th, 2015 by Ed
March 28th, 2015

Morley & Outwood Campaign Centre is now open

Thank you to all the local activists who came along to the launch today

Today we formally opened our Campaign Centre in Morley. We’ve been campaigning regularly over the last five years but with the General Election now officially here we’ll be out every day, fighting for every vote.

There’s a huge amount at stake in Morley and Outwood. Tory plans mean deeper cuts to public services in our area – even bigger after the election than over the last five years – which go way beyond balancing the books. They could only be delivering by raising VAT again and putting our NHS at risk. Five more years of the Tories would be a disaster for the NHS, pensioners and working people in our area.

Labour’s plan will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, back Yorkshire jobs, expand free childcare for working parents, reduce taxes for low and middle income workers with a 10p starting rate of income tax, stop exploitative zero hours contracts and rebuild our NHS.

And I’ve made sure Labour policies are fully funded so people know what they’re getting when they vote. We can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

This weekend local activists have been out delivering 15,000 letters. I cooked a Chorizo and Pinto Bean Stew for everyone yesterday to keep them going.

Thank you to everyone who came along to help out.

And any constituents can let me know you’re supporting Labour by emailing me. Or you can reach the campaign centre on 0113 318 0202.

Posted March 28th, 2015 by Ed
March 25th, 2015

Transcript of Ed’s interview about VAT and National Insurance on Sky News

ED BALLS – VAT, National Insurance

Sky News
Wednesday 25 March 2015

Speakers: Ed Balls & Gamal Fahnbulleh

GF: David Cameron has ruled out a VAT increase in the next Parliament if the Conservatives get back into power at the general election. What do Labour make of the announcement? Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls joins us now. Is it fair to say that Ed Miliband was caught off guard?

EB: I don’t think anybody is going to believe a word David Cameron said. This was the Prime Minister who in 2010 said he would not raise VAT and straight after the election he raised it from 17.5% to 20%. Every Tory Prime Minister has raised VAT and the Tories will do so again and the reason is very clear: they’ve got £10 billion of tax cut promises they can’t say where they are going to pay for it. And the Budget confirmed spending cuts deeper in the next three years than in the last five. These would be so decimating to our police, to our national defence, to social care, that the only way the Tories will make their sums add up is cutting the NHS and raising VAT. As night follows day, Tories raise VAT. David Cameron has got a problem because he knows his sums don’t add up. But nobody is going to believe a word of it.

GF: But nonetheless, Mr Balls, so close to a general election in May, this announcement this afternoon will play well with many?

EB: Well, let’s wait and see. Every day now until the general election, David Cameron will have to defend the fact that he broke his promise on VAT in the last Parliament and try and persuade people he’s not going to do the same thing again. Every day between now and the general election he will have to explain how he can have deeper cuts to public spending in the next three years than in the last five years, without cutting the NHS or raising VAT. Every day he is going to have to explain how he can tell people he has got £10 billion of unfunded promises on tax with no idea where the money is going to come from. I think this is a huge problem for David Cameron and George Osborne. The reason why George Osborne has resisted this for weeks is because he knows it’s the wrong thing for the Tories to do because nobody will believe them. It’s why it wasn’t in the Budget last week. David Cameron though, is in a panic. That’s what we’ve seen. But I remember John Major and Norman Lamont being in a panic in 1992, ‘93, ‘94 about taxation. They broke their promises and David Cameron will do the same thing again.

GF: Yeah, you say this is something that is not to be believed by the general public, but what about National Insurance contributions?

EB: Working people in our country have been hit really hard in the last five years. They are paying £1,000 more in tax than they were in 2010 – £1,127 – because of that VAT rise and cuts to tax credits and we’ve made it really clear that we’ve got a balanced plan to cut the deficit every year but not as extreme as George Osborne’s plan. We’re not signing up to his big, extreme spending cuts which we think will be really dangerous. We’ve set out how we can raise taxes for those on high incomes like putting the 50p top rate back up for people earning £150,000, the Mansion Tax to pay for the NHS. I said yesterday – we will make our tax pledges in our manifesto – but I said yesterday the next Labour government will not raise the main rate of VAT. I said we will not increase the basic and higher rates if income tax and I said yesterday, and I’ll say it again to you today, the next Labour government will not raise National insurance. That will be in our manifesto. A year ago there was a big Tory attempt to say Labour would raise National Insurance for the health service and I said it’s not our policy then and it’s not our policy now because our plans on the NHS are costed and paid for. And working people have been hit hard by the Tories and I would like to cut the tax burden for working people rather than put it up. So we’re clear: no rise in the main rate of VAT, no rise in the basic and higher rates of income tax, no rise in National Insurance under Labour because our plans are balanced and careful and fair plans that don’t require it. It’s the Tories who will cut the NHS and raise VAT and that is the debate we will now have every day until polling day.

GF: Okay. Ed Balls, the difficulty though the Labour Party faces right now is that many people will say that look, we have heard this all before, so close to this general election. How can you prove to them, how can you assure them that you’re going to keep to your word?

EB: I said yesterday that the rise in VAT on pensioners and on low-income families is so unfair, it’s such an unfair tax, which you can’t avoid, which you pay from the first pound, which is a tax which you pay the same rate of on the lowest income or a millionaire. I would rather resign than raise VAT. But the important point, Gamal, is that our plans add up without us needing to hit working people because we’ve not signed up to the extreme spending cuts and the overall surplus that George Osborne is promising. Our manifesto will be very clear on VAT, that we won’t raise National Insurance, and on income tax because we are the party which wants to support and cut taxes for working people. But the Tories have got form. You know, Geoffrey Howe in 1978 promised not to raise VAT, then he raised it. Norman Lamont and John Major promised not to raise VAT before the ’92 election and then they raised it. David Cameron and George Osborne promised not to raise VAT before the 2010 election and then they raised it. And they are going to do the same again because it’s the only way they will make the sums add up and they are happy to hit working people. That’s why they are resisting our plans on a Mansion Tax and on repeating the bank bonus tax and on putting the top rate of income tax back up to £150,000. They don’t support our tax rises for those on high incomes with broader shoulders, but the Tories, as night follows day, raise VAT, and they will do the same.

GF: But would you cut VAT?

EB: I’m afraid we are going to inherit a deficit of £90 billion and much as I don’t like the rise in VAT we have seen there is going to be other things which are going to be a priority for us, like making sure we invest in our schools and in transport and in the NHS, and I’ve said I will [introduce] the 10p starting rate of income tax and I will do that by getting rid of this perverse married couple’s allowance David Cameron has introduced which doesn’t go to two-thirds of married couples. I’m afraid I can’t promise to cut VAT but I can pledge not to raise it. That’s a pledge I can make and people will believe because Labour does not think raising VAT is fair. The Tories have got form: David Cameron broke his promise in 2010 on VAT, he’ll do the same thing again because he has got unfunded tax cuts he can’t pay for and spending plans so extreme they would decimate policing and our defence forces and social care. I think they are impossible for him to deliver without a cut to the NHS or an increase in VAT and this is now going to be the election debate from now until election day. I’ve got to say to you, Gamal, no wonder David Cameron and George Osborne are ducking head-to-head debates between me and with Ed Miliband because when it comes to discussing who raises VAT, everybody knows the Tories do it time and time again.

-ends-

Posted March 25th, 2015 by Ed's team
March 25th, 2015

Something worrying is happening with the NHS in our area

Something worrying is happening with the NHS and health care in our area.

But when I recently asked people about their experiences of the NHS, 92% told me they thought the health service was under pressure. That’s a pretty clear indication of concern. And the biggest worries local patients told me about were delays in getting GP appointments, waiting times for referrals, tests or treatment and maternity services.

Just in the past week, dozens of people have contacted me in my Morley office with specific concerns. “I recently went in for a scan and people are running on empty,” one local man told me. One woman from Drighlington wrote, “my personal experience of cancer in the family has made me more aware than ever of how lucky we are to have the NHS.” And another man said, “The NHS saved my life when I had a heart attack, but I’m worried about private companies taking over.”

And at a meeting with local health professionals at Morley Health Centre the other week, staff expressed similar concerns. “The pressure just keeps growing and we just have to do more but with less of us to do it,” one local physiotherapist told me. But one of the most worrying cases I’ve heard recently was from a local woman who I spoke to after she’d given birth to her baby in hospital. She told me she had been kept on a ward during labour because there wasn’t the room or the midwives available.

Of course, many of the specific cases that come to me are exceptions. Most people’s experience of the NHS remains positive. And I know from speaking to staff in our NHS just how hard they work and how dedicated they are to doing the best for patients.

But the NHS is clearly under huge pressure. A&E waiting times have been missed almost every week for the last 6 months. Staff are clearly frustrated at the increasing pressure they have to work under. The lack of social care is putting NHS beds under strain. And of course when the NHS tries to do more and more but without a corresponding increase in budgets, it does impact on patients.

What is clear from my casework and the conversations I’m having with both patients and staff locally, is that pressure on budgets are growing and a huge shortage of staff in the health service is really starting to bite.

I want to be able to reassure local people when they contact me. I want to say that the NHS’s future is assured. Looking forwards I want to see 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more doctors, 5,000 more homecare workers and 3,000 more midwives in the health service to ease the pressures. But at the moment that isn’t happening and when staff and patients, even managers, tell you the pressure is getting too great and the NHS is going backwards, I can’t reassure constituents who contact me.

It’s not just about numbers of staff, although obviously getting more nurses will take the pressure off existing staff. We need to make sure we cut out any waste and get value for money for every pound we spend. Above all, it’s about staff having the time to care for patients and not always being rushed off their feet, dashing from one emergency to the next.

Of course any changes have to be paid for. No one can promise to turn things around without saying where the money is coming from. That is why I have said I want to see specific changes made including a levy on tobacco companies and a crack-down on tax avoidance all being used to raise £2.5 billion a year for the NHS.

For those who’ve written to me this last week, improvements in the health service can’t come soon enough. I remain extremely worried about what will happen if we don’t get the additional investment NHS patients locally desperately need and deserve.

Like those people who’ve been in touch over the last week, if you have your own concerns about our NHS and local healthcare, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. My email will remain the same over the next few weeks: ed@edballs.com and you also can reach me on 0113 253 9466 or 0113 318 0202.

Posted March 25th, 2015 by Ed
March 24th, 2015

My speech on Labour’s VAT pledge

Thank you to Shabana for that introduction.

Not only are you a great campaigning Labour MP, here in Birmingham.

You are also a hugely valuable member of the Labour Shadow Treasury team – working with Ed Miliband and me on our plans for government – from boosting regional growth and supporting business innovation to tackling tax avoidance across our tax system.

And you know how across this city people have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis and the rise in VAT.

Here in Birmingham, and across the country, people are not feeling the recovery.

And while the current falls in global oil prices have led to temporarily very low inflation, wages remain stagnant and family budgets are under great pressure.

The last thing people want to hear is a Conservative Chancellor telling them they’ve never had it so good.

And they are even more worried after a Budget which did little for working people, nothing for our National Health Service and announced plans for deeper spending cuts in the next three years than we have seen in the last five years.

So today I want to talk about the threat to living standards from another five years of the Tories.

About VAT.

And about Labour’s pledge to the British people.

VAT is the tax that hits everyone – with the same rate paid by the pensioner as the millionaire.

It’s the tax that hits you every day – whether you’re stopping at a café for a cup of tea or filling up the family car.

It’s the tax that you pay from the first pound that you spend.

And it’s the tax that hits pensioners and the poorest hardest.

For many pensioners and those on the lowest incomes, it’s the biggest tax they pay.

But the Tories and Lib Dems raised it within weeks of the last general election – despite David Cameron telling the British people a few days before the election that he had ‘no plans’ to do so and despite the promises of Nick Clegg.

That Tory VAT rise hit the living standards of millions of people.

It led to higher prices for everyone – helping inflation hit 5.2 per cent when it was raised.

And over the last four years it has cost families an average of £1800, according to the Treasury’s own figures.

Since 2010, David Cameron and George Osborne have shown their true instincts and values through the choices they have made.

And their choice was to raise VAT on pensioners and working families, while giving the top one per cent of earners a £3 billion a year top rate tax cut.

VAT is the tax that every Tory government in the last forty years has raised.

But no Labour government has ever hiked up the main rate of VAT.

And it was Labour that stopped Norman Lamont raising VAT on fuel to 17.5 per cent in 1994 – the defeat which cost the Conservative Chancellor his job.
We will make our tax commitments in full in our manifesto.

But I am clear that while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut, working people are paying more in tax after the last five years of the Tories.

So today I can announce a clear pledge to the British people:

The next Labour government will not raise VAT.

We will not put up VAT.

And we will not extend it to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares.

We will not raise VAT because it’s the tax that hits everyone. It’s the tax that hits you every day. And it hits pensioners and the poorest hardest.

I would resign rather than break this promise and hike up VAT.

And Labour can make this manifesto commitment for the next Parliament because, unlike the Tories, all of our promises are fully funded and paid for.

Where we need to raise extra revenue for Labour’s better plan we have been clear where it will come from – however controversial:

A mansion tax on properties over £2 million, a levy on the tobacco companies and closing tax loopholes to save and transform our NHS with an extra 20,000 nurses, 8,000 more GPs and cancer tests guaranteed in a week.
Reversing this government’s top rate tax cut for people earning over £150,000 to help get the deficit down in a fairer way, as we balance the books in the next Parliament.
A one-off tax on bank bonuses to fund a paid starter job for every young person out of work for 12 months or more – which they will have to take up.
Scrapping the unfair married couples allowance, which will only help one in three married couples, and using the money to instead introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax – which will help millions more married couples, more families and more working people.

Not going ahead with a further cut in corporation tax for large companies, but instead cutting and then freezing business rates for small firms.
Reducing the amount of pension tax relief given to the highest earners to pay for a cut in tuition fees to £6,000 – cutting not only the burden of debt on graduates, but reducing the national debt too.

Closing tax loopholes and scrapping the shares for rights scheme so we can scrap the unfair and hated Bedroom Tax

And a higher bank levy to pay for expanding free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds – from 15 to 25 hours a week – to help make work pay and help parents balance work and family life.

Every one of these measures is fully costed, fully funded and every one has been opposed by the Tories.

Labour will not raise VAT. But the Tories will – again – as our new poster warns today.
Because it’s now clear the only way the Tories can make their sums add up on their extreme plans is to raise VAT again after the election.

In last week’s Budget the Tories confirmed plans which go beyond simply balancing the books.

Plans for extreme spending cuts which are a grave threat to our living standards and our public services.

As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility said, these Budget plans will mean “a sharp acceleration” in cuts to public spending.

They mean deeper spending cuts in the next three years than the last five years.

In fact, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, the Budget plans mean spending cuts after the election twice as deep as anything seen in the last five years.

The extreme cuts to public services like police, defence and social care under these plans would be so deep they’d be almost impossible to achieve, even for this Chancellor.

And the Tories have also made £10 billion of unfunded tax promises – which they have still not told us how they will pay for.

That’s why people will conclude that to make their sums add up the Tories will end up putting our NHS at risk and raising VAT again.

And, of course, the Tories have form when it comes to VAT.

It’s the Conservative Party’s favourite tax to raise.

Just look at the history.

Edward Heath introduced it and every single Conservative Prime Minister since him has raised it – first Margaret Thatcher, then John Major and now David Cameron.

Before the 1979 General Election, Geoffrey Howe said he had “absolutely no intention of doubling VAT”.

But in his first Budget, just weeks after the Tories were elected, he raised VAT from eight per cent to 15 per cent.

Conservative Party papers uncovered in the 1990s showed that the Tories had been secretly planning this VAT hike 11 months before the General Election.

In 1991, another Conservative Chancellor Norman Lamont increased VAT again – from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent.

And in the 1992 Budget, which took place less than six weeks before the General Election, Chancellor Lamont told the House of Commons:

“I have no need, no proposals and no plans either to raise or to extend the scope of VAT.”

But after winning the 1992 election, the Conservatives raised VAT again – introducing VAT on domestic heating and fuel in the 1993 Budget – at an initial rate of 8 per cent.

If the Tories had got their way VAT on gas and electricity bills would have reached 17.5 per cent in April 1995.

But Labour MPs defeated the Tories on this in the House of Commons.

And in our first Budget after the 1997 election, the Labour government reduced VAT on fuel to five per cent – the lowest possible rate under EU rules.

Before the last election David Cameron and George Osborne repeatedly claimed they had “no plans” to raise VAT – the same phrase used by their Tory predecessors.

Then just a few weeks after the election they raised it in the first Tory Budget – from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent – hitting the living standards of millions of people.

The Treasury’s own figures show that it cost a family with children £450 a year – or £1800 over the four years it has now been in place.

They even tried to put VAT on pasties and caravans.

And now history is repeating itself all over again.

Just as before the last election David Cameron and George Osborne repeatedly claimed they had “no plans” to raise VAT – and we all know what happened next – so now in the last few weeks David Cameron and George Osborne have again repeatedly refused to rule out raising VAT again to pay for their promises.

In November George Osborne was asked if he would raise VAT and he said: “We don’t have any plans.”

Asked again last week, he said that another rise in VAT was “not part of our plans”.

Ring any bells?

It’s the same Tory lie about VAT: 1979, 1992, 2010 and now 2015.

And everybody in the country knows what it means.

The Tories have a secret plan to raise VAT again.

Another 2.5 per cent rise in VAT would, according to the Treasury’s own figures, cost a family with children an average of £450 a year and a pensioner couple £275 a year.

Because rather than asking those with the broadest shoulders to make a greater contribution, VAT has always been the Tory tax of choice.

In his spectacularly self-indulgent, presumptuous and arrogant announcement David Cameron is ruling out a third term before he has even won a second term. But he won’t rule out raising VAT.

We may not now know who the Tory leader would be at the next election, but one thing we do know for sure – the Tories will ‎raise VAT if they win this one.

Because the Tories’ extreme spending plans and unfunded promises mean they’ll end up raising VAT to make their sums add up.

Tory governments always raise VAT. They did it last time and if they’re given another chance they’ll do it again – hitting millions of pensioners and working families.

David Cameron is taking the British people for granted, but it’s for the voters to make their choice on 7 May.

So the choice at this general election is clear.

A choice between a Tory plan that is failing working families and a better Labour plan that will put working families first and save our NHS.

A choice between an extreme plan that goes beyond balancing the books or Labour’s sensible and balanced plan to get the deficit down – with sensible spending cuts, fair choices on tax and a plan to boost the living standards and wages of working people.

A choice between a Conservative Party which has a track record of raising VAT and has a secret plan to raise it again after the election – hitting the living standards of millions of people in the country.

Or a Labour Party which has never raised the main rate of VAT and will not raise VAT if we win the election.

In six weeks’ time we can stop the Tories hitting people with another hike in VAT – a Tory tax which hits everybody, every day.

Because working families and pensioners can’t afford five more years of the Tories.

Thank you.

Posted March 24th, 2015 by Ed
March 20th, 2015

The NHS can’t afford the Tory cuts plan – Ed and Andy Burnham launch Labour’s first election poster

Speaking at the launch of Labour’s first election poster Ed said:

“George Osborne’s Budget set out plans for deeper and more extreme spending cuts after the election.

“These plans go beyond simply balancing the books. They would mean deeper spending cuts in the next three years than the last five years. In 2018 spending on day-to-day public services as a share of national income will be at its lowest level since 1938.

“The cuts to public services like police, defence and social care under these plans would be so deep they’d be almost impossible to achieve. People will conclude that to make their sums add up the Tories will end up cutting our NHS.

“OECD countries which have cut public spending at the pace which George Osborne plans ended up cutting health spending. If equivalent cuts to health spending were imposed on the UK, this could mean £7 billion being cut from the NHS. This would have a disastrous impact on services and staffing levels.

“Britain needs a better plan. Labour will get the deficit down in a more sensible and balanced way. And we have a fully-funded plan to save our NHS and transform it for the future.

“Labour’s plan means 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and cancer tests guaranteed within one week. And we’ll pay for it by closing tax loopholes and a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million.

“After five years of David Cameron, our health service is going backwards. Our NHS just can’t afford these extreme and risky Tory cuts. And after their broken promises on the NHS in this Parliament nobody will trust what the Tories say about the NHS.”

Posted March 20th, 2015 by Ed's team
March 19th, 2015

Ed’s response to the IFS Post-Budget briefing

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, commenting on the IFS Post-Budget briefing, said:

“This is a damning verdict on George Osborne’s Budget.

“The IFS says the Chancellor’s Budget plans involve annual spending cuts after the election which are twice as deep as anything we’ve seen in the last five years.

“The Tories have said today that they won’t tell us where their welfare cuts will come from until after the election. People will conclude that to make their sums add up the Tories would do what they always do – raising VAT again and putting our NHS at risk.

“As the IFS says, this government’s changes have hit the poorest hardest of all. And even on George Osborne’s flawed measure, the Tories have left people worse off today. If the Tories want to spend the election campaign telling people they’ve never had it so good, they’re even more out of touch than I thought.

“We need Labour’s better plan which will put working families first, balance the books in a fair way and save our NHS.”

Ends

Posted March 19th, 2015 by Ed's team
March 18th, 2015

After this Budget, it’s clear that Britain needs a better plan – my article in the Daily Mirror

The Budget was a complete flop.

It changed nothing for working people in our country.

George Osborne spent an hour telling people they’ve never had it so good.

But after five years of the Tories working people are still an average £1,600 a year worse off.

That’s why he has failed to balance the books as he promised.

Our National Health Service is in crisis. But George Osborne had nothing to say about the NHS.

The Tories started the day with plans for extreme spending cuts. And they ended the day with plans for extreme spending cuts.

As the independent Office for Budget Responsibility said, these Budget plans will mean “a sharp acceleration” in cuts to public spending – even bigger after the election than over the last five years.

These are deeper cuts which go beyond simply balancing the books. They could only be delivered by raising VAT again and putting our NHS at risk.

That’s what you get from a Tory Chancellor who gives with one hand and takes much more with the other.

After this Budget, it’s clear that Britain needs a better plan.

So a Labour Budget will raise living standards by increasing the minimum wage and with 25 hours of free childcare for working parents.

We will save our NHS from the Tories with 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs and cancer tests guaranteed in one week, paid for by closing tax loopholes and a mansion tax on properties over £2million.

We will cut business rates for small firms, reduce tuition fees to £6,000 a year and guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the grades.

We will cut taxes for millions of working people through a lower 10p starting rate.

And we will balance the books in a fairer way by reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires and scrapping the Bedroom Tax.

That’s the Labour Budget we need.

Posted March 18th, 2015 by Ed
March 17th, 2015

We need a better plan and a Labour Budget which puts working families first and saves our NHS

Speaking ahead of the Budget, Ed said:

“This Budget cannot hide the fact that after five years of the Tories working families are worse off and our NHS is going backwards.

“And the Tories are planning more extreme spending cuts after the election, which go way beyond balancing the books and will put our NHS at risk.

“George Osborne gives with one hand, but takes away much more with the other hand. The IFS says his tax and benefit changes since 2010, including the big VAT rise, have cost families on average £1127 a year. No pre-election tax cut can make up for that.

“We need a better plan and a Labour Budget which puts working families first and saves our NHS. We’ll raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, cut taxes for working people with a lower 10p starting rate of tax and reduce business rates for small firms. And we’ll balance the books in a fair way by reversing the Tories’ tax cut for millionaires.”

Ends

Posted March 17th, 2015 by Ed's team
March 16th, 2015

Google’s first Digital Garage in Leeds Dock

Launching Google's First Digital Garage here in Leeds

It’s really important small businesses here in West Yorkshire can compete in the digital age. Already in Morley we have free WiFi for local businesses – thanks to O2. So it is fantastic to see a project like The Digital Garage from Google bringing digital skills to small businesses across our region.

Google has long been committed to getting British businesses online. They’ve already invested in programmes such as their Juice Bars to help 250,000 UK small businesses become digital businesses. So it’s great that they’re taking that further and have chosen West Yorkshire as the Launchpad for the next stage of their investment in UK businesses. Google Digital Garages will provide digital skills training for 200,000 small businesses by 2016. And best of all, the first of their Digital Garages is right here in West Yorkshire in Leeds Dock.

The Leeds Digital Garage is a multi-million pound programme that will provide digital skills training to 200,000 SMEs both online and in person at pop-up training venues across the UK. They will be places where local people can learn how to use the Internet to reach beyond traditional markets and find new customers and opportunities.

All the evidence shows that businesses with a strong online presence grow faster and generate new jobs more quickly. So this programme is not only good for local businesses individually but will also be a real benefit for the local and regional economy.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. But many have had a tough time of it in recent years and that what we need to do more to support them which is why I’ve said I would instead cut business rates to benefit small firms.

For now Google say they will be in Leeds for at least 6 months but I’d like them to stay for longer. And if local businesses really take advantage and use the facilities and training on offer, then I’m sure can build a good local campaign.

Posted March 16th, 2015 by Ed's team