It’s time for a plan B on the economy

The worrying figures published last week showed that the economy shrank by 0.3 per cent at the end of last year.

Half of the country saw yet another rise in unemployment, the long term unemployment figures went up again and so did youth unemployment.

For many months, calls for urgent action to kick-start our economy have been ignored.

Now, after two and a half years of flat-lining and a double-dip recession, even the International Monetary Fund is losing patience with the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

The IMF warned again last week that we need a change of course in the Budget. A Plan B now should include a temporary VAT cut to boost family incomes and our struggling high street as well as bringing forward long-term infrastructure investment.

The longer the Government clings on to its failing plan, the more long-term damage they will do to our economy.

I support reform of the assessment and qualification system across 14-19 education but the latest Government proposals risk turning the clock back.

The announcement last week on changes to A-levels in England – including scrapping the AS Level – risk narrowing the options for young people, returning to an all or nothing set of exams at the end of the course.

It’s no wonder leading universities like Oxford and Cambridge say this is a mistake.

House of Commons Library research reveals the true cost of last week’s pension reforms to the women in the Rother Valley constituency who are set to lose out.

Some 700 local women born in 1952 and 1953 will not be eligible for the single tier pension since they are due to retire in 2017, before the state pension reforms come into effect. Men born during the same period, however, will qualify.

The news comes after the Government claimed that ‘we have to be absolutely transparent (about who will lose)’ yet failed to make clear the full consequences of the planned reforms.

The unravelling of this latest announcement on pensions is the second time this Government has been caught trying to hide the full impact of its changes for pensioners following the Granny Tax.

Earlier this week the Government announced its initial preferences for the line of the route for HS2 Phase Two, going through the Rother Valley.

Rotherham Council has advised me that a full consultation on the proposed high-speed railway will start in the spring and conclude in autumn 2014.