Although it was somewhat lost in the ‘noise’, I was excited this week by a radical and welcome announcement that we are rolling out a major expansion of adult education and training. Starting from April, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee plan will offer adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification a free, full-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them and their families. This really gives millions of people a ‘second chance’ to gain new skills and means the government is putting its money where its mouth is on a practical policy for skills – something that everyone likes to talk about but which we are finally doing something about. This will be an important part of the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and will help workers and firms adapt to the changing economy and retrain to get the skills they need. Small businesses taking on apprentices will also see more funding and flexibility over how to structure their training – especially in sectors such as construction where there are more varied work patterns. Further details being set out in a Further Education White Paper later this year, and the policies announced so far are all a great cause for optimism.
Regular readers will know that I have been persistently working with agencies such as Sussex Police to make the roads of West Sussex safer as well as crack down on the minority of anti-social motorcyclists and car drivers whose noise causes real frustration to residents as they treat local A-roads in areas such as Petworth, Wisborough Green and Bury as their personal race track from dawn to dusk. Following the concerted efforts of Operation Downsway over the summer months, my campaign now moves to Parliament and later this month I will be presenting a new Bill in the Commons to close a current loophole in the law. Currently, there is a clear pattern of deliberate behavior by a small but dangerous minority of road users using illegal ‘show plates’ with small or non-standard fonts that cannot be read from a distance or by many speed cameras. These anti-social drivers and motorcyclists defy speed limits and cameras with only moderate consequences: the probability of a £100 fine if they are stopped by the police. This is seen as an acceptable risk by certain owners of performance motorbikes and sports cars. However, points on their driving licence leading to higher insurance premiums and ultimately disqualification would be a much greater deterrent. The Bill is called ‘The Vehicle Registration Offences (Penalty Points) Bill’ and I hope that it will be supported by all right-thinking residents and Parliamentarians alike.