It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, with advice surgeries, interviews, speeches to the Association of County Councils Network and the Town and Country Planning Association annual meetings and an event with Chinese investors at which myself, Fabian Hamilton and Rachel Reeves all told them all about the wonders of our city and the wider region. The aim was to encourage more overseas businesses to invest in Leeds and so create jobs and wealth.
Yesterday, I attended an event at the Department for the Environment to celebrate the contribution of the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Timber Corps to the war effort in both the first and second world wars. When I was Secretary of State for the Environment I decided that we should recognise the enormous contribution that these women had made and invited all the surviving members – the Land Girls and the Lumber Jills as they were affectionately known at the time – to apply for one. We were overwhelmed with applications from the 36,000 women who had served and were still alive. They often say that they look back on their time as among the happiest of their lives, and it was a privilege once again to meet some of them last week.
Today I had a meeting with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to discuss some of the challenges they face from increased demand and, sometimes, delays in getting patients to hospital. The staff have great skill and their intervention on the scene can make all the difference. I can attest to this from personal experience last Friday when I saw the YAS staff dealing with an emergency in the city centre.
Another day of strike action has been announced by the Fire Brigades Union in the long running dispute over pensions. There is a real issue here about the suitability of the Government’s proposed pension scheme when it comes to the particular fitness demands on firefighters. Inevitably, as we get older, our ability to take in oxygen declines and the firefighters I’ve spoken to locally are concerned about the prospect of staff who have done their best to maintain their fitness being told that they cannot work any longer. We need to find a fair settlement to this dispute.
Tomorrow is the Autumn Statement when the Chancellor will tell us about the state of the economy. The sad truth is, however, that the deficit is rising once again and the so-called recovery is not being felt by most people. We really do need a different approach.