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A message from Andrew Turner – the Island’s MP

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Encouraging signs on the UK economy
There have been plenty of signs recently that the UK economy is picking up and rebalancing itself.  Between July and September it grew at its fastest pace for three years and GDP figures are ahead of forecasts.  These figures and other indicators demonstrate that Britain is now on track to be one of the fasted growing economies in the western world.  Recent surveys also demonstrate a welcome boost in consumer and business confidence.  That of course is all very good news and shows that years of difficult political decisions are at last beginning to pay off and the recovery has real momentum.  Britain is turning  a corner but risks remain.

We need to keep our nerve at tackling the deep-seated economic problems and the failures of economic policy over many years.  Public spending spiralled out of control, benefits became a lifestyle choice and during the times of plenty no provision was made for the hard times ahead.

Employment is now at a higher level than its pre-recession peak and building on that that will be key to the country’s continuing success.   We need to keep finding ways to encourage start-ups and the small businesses that will bring prosperity to the Isle of Wight.  Around 18 months ago I set up the Isle of Wight Technology Group – companies on the Isle of Wight engaged in high-end manufacturing and electronics.  One of their greatest problems is finding people with the right skills to help them grow their businesses – we are working together to find ways to put that right.  It will take time – but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

We have cut the deficit by a third, keeping interest rates and mortgages low.  Net immigration has been cut by more than a third, relieving the pressure on the public services that we all rely on.  We have also begun the difficult task of fixing the tax and benefits system – so that it rewards people who are willing to work hard, but provides a safety net for those in genuine need.  And businesses have created 1.4 million new jobs and a record number of apprenticeships.

Education is Key!

We now need to ensure that the Island benefits from this new economic environment.  One of the biggest problems that could stand in our way is the sorry state of our education system.  It is now very clear that the reorganisation of the Island’s schools from a three tier to a two tier system was badly botched.  We have some great things going on in our schools and some good schools – but they have been badly supported and the uncertainty and upheaval of the reorganisation has led to even greater problems than were there before.

However, the most important thing, both for the young people caught up in the system and for the future economic success of the Island, is to work hard  on getting our schools up to scratch.  I genuinely believe that this is the biggest challenge facing our Council now, and I am committed to supporting them as they work with the Hampshire and IW School Improvement officer team to make the necessary improvements.  The Independent councillor Richard Priest and Conservative Chris Whitehouse are working well together, putting political differences aside for the benefit of the Island’s young people.  I applaud them both for their hard work.

Can I help You?
I am the only MP for the whole of the Isle of Wight – the largest constituency in the UK. I represent almost 140,000 Island residents and I always do my best to stand up for everyone in our community – regardless of politics. So if you have a problem I can help with, or there is an issue I should take up, or you would like to talk about any aspect of my work as your MP, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I get out and about round the Island knocking on doors on Saturday mornings and if you would like to find out when I will be in your area do give my office a call.

Of course I also hold my regular Friday afternoon surgeries – where you can make an appointment to come along to discuss any issues that concern you.

If you would like to get in touch or ask me to attend an event you are organising please call me on 530808.

With all good wishes,

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Broadlands jobs safe

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Island MP Andrew Turner has received confirmation that the future of jobs and services at Broadlands House are secure following press reports that previously announced new jobs would not now be coming to the Island. Mr Turner said that yesterday’s press reports were completely at odds with assurances he had received both from the Minister last summer and the regional manager as recently as November last year. On hearing the reports that plans had changed he contacted the senior management of JobCentre Plus to seek clarification of the position.

Mr Turner said

“I have now received definite confirmation that the plans of Jobcentre Plus have not changed and that they will be keeping a benefit processing centre on the Island as well as establishing one of only two national insurance number processing centres here. I have been told that the additional jobs will arise as their plans are implemented over the coming months.”

Mr Turner went on to say

“During our meeting last November Guy Tompkins Jobcentre Plus’s regional manager was very complimentary about their workforce on the Island and told me that the positive approach of the staff was one of the reasons why they planned to expand on the Island. I am very glad that they see the sense of bringing work to the Island rather than taking it to the mainland and I will continue to press Government to follow their example.

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School Reorganization – Where will £70m come from?

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Government have denied promising the IW Council £70 million to pay for reorganizing Island schools from a three- to a two-tier system. And the Island’s MP has criticized the ‘optimistic noises’ on funding given at consultation meetings.

In a Parliamentary Answer to Island MP Andrew Turner it was revealed that there have been absolutely no promises from the Government to provide the estimated £70 million needed for the changes being proposed by council officials. In answering Mr Turner, Stephen Twigg MP, the Minister responsible for school funding, made it clear that the Isle of Wight council has received no assurances that extra money will be made available for the proposed changeover. Mr Turner has criticized the impression given to parents and teachers that obtaining the money needed from central government would not present a problem.

Andrew Turner said,

“During the meeting I attended at Sandown High School it was clearly stated that ‘we can get’ the £70 million needed to change the system. I was surprised to hear that because that simply isn’t the way that Government works. I have asked the Government what promises they have given and they have clearly told me that they have given none. I have now asked the Council what led them to give such a misleading impression to those who went to the trouble of attending the meeting. I have been told that there have been informal meetings with government officials who support these proposals – I am afraid that does not represent government spending commitments. Frankly I am shocked that optimistic noises were made which misled people.”

Exam results and education standards on the Island are far below the national average and the recent report costing £100,000 by 4S recommended changing the system but did not provide any evidence that this alone would improve standards. Mr Turner went on to say:

“There may well be arguments for changing the system – but changing the system does not guarantee improving standards; the issues should not be mixed up. Even the advocates of change admit it would cost a fortune. If that money does not come from central government it will have to come from existing council budgets and be topped up by Island council taxpayers.

“It is at very least disingenuous to suggest that finding the money to achieve change is not an important issue that needs to be discussed as part of these proposals. I am worried that the Council seems to believe that informal discussions with civil servants translates into promises of many millions of pounds – sadly that is not the case.

“We need to raise standards but that is best done by the Council accepting that some schools are better than others, publishing that information to parents, governors, teachers and the wider public, and tackling the problems on a school-by-school basis. It is not as glamorous as being the architect of a whole new system, but it is much more likely to give our children the quality schooling they deserve.”

END

Contact : Andrew Turner 01983 530808

School Building (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) commitments and (b) undertakings she has made to the Isle of Wight Council regarding future capital allocations provided (i) through the Building Schools for the Future programme or (ii) otherwise, whether (A) contingent on or (B) not contingent on school reorganisation. [216280]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: A letter has been sent to all council leaders stating that, for authorities not prioritised in the first three waves of Building Schools for the Future (BSF), including the Isle of Wight, we are determined to make a start on BSF plans between 2005–06 and 2010–11. Our ambition is that in the next full Parliament, subject to future spending decisions, 60 per cent. of all authorities will have started in the BSF programme, or else be given resources to renew at least one secondary school with the greatest need as a school for the future, or as an academy. Each BSF scheme will be judged on its merits, and is not necessarily contingent on school reorganisation. Other capital allocations to the council and its schools were announced on 30 November, and are set out in the following table:

£000
2006–07 14,853
2007–08 15,446

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Can we become a Fairtrade Island?

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As World Fair Trade Fortnight draws to a close this Sunday the Island’s MP Andrew Turner has praised the work of the IW Fairtrade Forum. The Forum is working towards the accolade of Fairtrade Island by building on existing users and suppliers of Fairtrade products to spread the word about the products and the good they do for their producers in the developing world. There are now more than 250 products bearing the distinctive green and blue logo which guarantees a fair deal to producers of such items as coffee, tea, sugar and bananas.

Andrew Turner said,

“The Fairtrade product range has expanded over recent years and whilst once they were seen as an expensive alternative they now offer good value and quality. In order to become a Fairtrade Island we need more suppliers of the products so everybody really can make a difference by asking their local coffee shop or convenience store to stock a few items from the range. As the largest constituency in the country the Island gaining this accolade really would make a difference and give a boost to the national campaign. Fairtrade really makes a difference to those communities that need a helping hand – and I know that on the Island we have a really caring and compassionate community”.

Jim Curtis the co-ordinator of the IW Fairtrade Forum said

“I very much value Andrew’s support for this campaign. In order for the Island to be recognised in this way we need the active support of the Isle of Wight council as well as that of suppliers across the Island. I urge everyone to let their local councillors know that they would be proud to see us become a Fairtrade Island helping less fortunate people to take control of their own lives and build themselves a better future.

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