News that unemployment has fallen by 11% in the Vale of Glamorgan over the past year should not just be viewed as the reporting of a dry economic statistic. That figure represents hundreds of local individuals who have moved from out-of-work benefits into the dignity and self-respect that employment brings. Behind that statistic is also hundreds of families who now, in many cases for the first time, have a regular pay packet coming in and thus enhanced economic security.
Unemployment has been falling across the United Kingdom over recent years as a result of the difficult decisions made in Government by ministers with a long-term economic plan, a plan that has put the country back on track. The government is however, not directly responsible for the sustained creation of new jobs that we have seen; instead they have created the conditions in the economy for jobs to be created by confident businesses of all shapes and sizes.
The majority of these businesses, and certainly those responsible for the job growth in Barry and the Vale, are disproportionately small businesses. Many of these small businesses will not qualify for small business rate relief in Wales following the scheduled revaluation of business premises. I am calling on the Welsh Government to apply a more generous rate-relief scheme, as exists in England, so that businesses with a rateable value below £12,000 pay nothing in rates.
It is hugely important that we support small business, the backbone of the local economy, and provide a similar level of relief as will be available on the other side of the Severn. As well as the businesses which create jobs in the community, we must also support those who help local people to make themselves available to the Labour market through careers advice.
I am very disappointed to learn that the Careers Wales centre in Barry is likely to close as a result of decisions made by the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay. The centre employs 18 people, who are dedicated to helping others to improve their employability and find fulfilment in work. If we are to sustain hob growth locally, we must support those who help to ready people for work as well as those who employ them.
With this in mind, I will be nominating a local person, business or charity for the 2017 ERSA Employability Awards. If you know somebody who has gone the extra mile to help others into work, please call my office on 01446 403 814.