‘Successive governments have not addressed issue of energy security’

Column by Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie.

This week is Apprenticeship Week. Ahead of it, I visited SGS College with the skills minister Alex Burghart.

We were able to look around the college’s excellent Stroud campus facilities and meet students on vocational courses, apprentices and staff to hear about their experiences of further education.

The college is a big player in Gloucestershire when it comes to apprenticeships. It works with 1,000 employers a year within its apprenticeship programmes and recruits over 600 new apprentices.

This is in addition to teaching 4000 16-19-year-olds on high-quality courses.

The pandemic has hit younger people harder than other sections of society and the extension of apprenticeships by the Government has made a huge difference to life chances for them. It is a real success story.

I am also incredibly proud to have SGS in my constituency. I love seeing the students who are taking their first steps towards rewarding and skilled careers in such safe and nurturing surroundings.

I did not go to university so I am a passionate advocate for everybody having a range of choices available in Stroud. I know that choosing good quality further education like the courses offered at SGS will help people into the world of work.

I was also proud to accompany the skills minister so he could see what an outstanding place of learning we have here. He met with students and talked to teachers about their views to inform how the Government can further improve further education.

The big jump in global energy prices hit home last week when the energy price cap went up 54%.

The Chancellor unveiled a £9 billion support package to help those who are struggling with energy costs.

It includes a one-off repayable £200 discount, a £150 rebate on council tax bills, and £144m given to councils in targeted support for vulnerable households.

There are now surging energy prices across the globe with demand in China a big driver in cost.

However, it is fair to say successive governments here over a long period have not addressed the issue of our energy security. This has left us at the mercy of global demand surges and higher costs.

The Government is rightly committed to renewables, new nuclear and net zero but until then I will make the case to ministers that this cannot be at the cost of high energy prices for working families and businesses. If this spike in energy costs continues as expected, a new interim strategy will be required. I remain very concerned about soaring energy costs for local businesses, schools and colleges.

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