In the first a series of political interviews in the run up the election we ask Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron what the Liberal Democrats will do for Cumbrian businesses.
The role of business in the community
“I think that if you are an MP then you’ve got the community’s approval and you need to add value to that community. Business is an intrinsic part of that, we have the highest rate of startups in the country and some of the lowest unemployment in the country.
“There are some challenges, the failure of politicians is that in the aftermath of the economic crash is to start to talk about business in the most negative of terms, and finding blame at the feet of people in Britain or in Brussels is dangerous and not helping to find the solution.
“We all have a part to play in business, the community as a whole is underpinned by business. The public sector is a good thing for business and aspects of this are missed too often, there are some real successes in South Lakeland and Cumbria as a whole.
“You need to look at the evidence really, South Lakeland has always had plans for the startups that we have here, we put together a local development framework that the Conservatives opposed. It can be unpopular to support to development but businesses need staff and that helps the area by reducing unemployment."
“Just like the football, it’s always important to see every election as 0-0, because even though we had a successful election result last time and we gained seats on the Conservatives you cannot guarantee it again.
“We have every reason to be confident, but if you think you’re above it then you’re destined to lose. We’re doing lots of doorstep work, which we’ve always done, I’ve always tried to do what other politicians do at election time all year round, so you’re just as likely to see me on your doorstep on a cold, wet tuesday night in October as you are in election season. I just make sure to keep carrying on with my surgeries and remaining a local MP.
“My take is that this election will be very interesting especially in that it looks unlikely that there will be a majority and that there is now a crowded market in politics."
Politics and banking
“All of us, and that includes politicians, must realise that it’s important to protect your reputation. The Conservatives have damaged business on a national level because they’re still being seen with and taking donations from the extremely popular people who have run banks.
“Banking is an honourable profession, but there are a small cadre of people who brought our economy to its knees. There’s nothing wrong with the profession but and good banking systems are essential for growth, but the reputation of our banks was damaged at a national level and you do yourself no favours whatever by courting these people.
“And that’s what the Liberal Democrats are about, we genuinely support banks and business but not the 1 per cent, we’re about getting good results and ensuring that those businesses who are only making ends meet get the support they need.
“We can create a space for business to grow."
The future of the Cumbrian business landscape
“We need to focus on building better broadband, creating homes, building a good business centre in South Lakeland and through our regional growth fund.
“I was at Gilkes yesterday, looking at the work they’re doing and talking to a small group of the 3,600 apprentices we’ve had through South Lakeland in the last four years. Their new technology is helping them develop hydroelectric turbines in replicated conditions that can then be shipped wherever in the world. And Gilkes have benefitted from the Regional Growth Fund money.
“Over the river at Kendal College, they’ve bought the same industrial equipment so they can help to support industry in creating real jobs.
“Cumbria and the Liberal Democrats have been identifying ways to back a winner and helping to back entrepreneurs who will create jobs. I’ve seen some great exporters in Cumbria, especially in the food and drink section, Hawkshead Relish have been an incredible example and needs to be seen that profits for a company are great news and important.“
The three point plan
“There are three things we need to ensure for businesses in our region to grow. Better broadband is one of them, we’re lucky in some areas here to get speeds of 20 megabyte per second, but if you’re unlucky it can be pushing one megabit. You really need to look at South Korea who currently have speeds of one gigabyte a second, even in the EU where Estonia have speeds of almost 40.
“We’re in the bottom half of the EU for broadband speed and if you’re in a more remote area, getting good broadband is even more important
“The second would be to move the UK Trade and investment department into the foreign office so that our embassies can begin to acts as economic embassies with a base in an enormous range of different economies. That would open up an enormous range of exporting opportunities especially as our diplomats are some of the best in the world.
“The third is to maximise the reputation of Cumbria internationally. The reputation of Cumbria is great, if you know about us. The Lake District is the second biggest attraction for tourists outside of London and we really should be using that to punch above our weight internationally.
“Industry here, whether it’s food and drink, leisure or manufacturing should be using the fact that we have a great brand as a positive for themselves and other producers.”
First published Monday, 09 March 2015 by http://www.in-cumbria.com
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