Prime Minister defends austerity programme on visit to Redditch

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 December 2012 Updated: 11/12 11:34

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Buy photos » David Cameron addresses workers at the Lear Corporation. All pictures by Ian Dipple (s)

THERE are no easy options but we are on track to fix Britain's economy was the message from the Prime Minister to workers in Redditch.

David Cameron visited the Lear Corporation, on Ravensbank Business Park, as part of a regional tour of the West Midlands on Friday (December 7).

He spent half an hour fielding questions about the Government's attempts to cut the deficit, filling the skills gap to help companies recruit the workers they need for the future, international investment and the banking sector.

The trip came on the back of this week's Autumn Statement, during which it was revealed the Government's austerity measures would continue until 2017/18 - a year longer than planned - the economy would shrink by 0.1 per cent this year, government debt would not begin falling until 2016/17, while most benefits will rise by just one per cent, less than inflation, over the next three years.

Mr Cameron admitted the last two and a half years had been tough but they were rebalancing the economy away from the state to the private sector, as well as from an over reliance on banking and finance to manufacturing and other sectors to deliver growth.

"I'm not saying everything is going to be fine by 2015, it's going to take time, but we are on track," he said.

Speaking to the Standard afterwards Mr Cameron insisted the public should keep faith with the Government as the economy was healing.

"We need the private sector to grow and a government and a state we can afford and while we have made cuts in the size of the state, and we have to do that, we have seen encouraging growth in employment and the private sector. There are 1.2million extra private sector jobs, thousands of them here in the West Midlands, companies like Jaguar Land Rover and here at Lear expanding and in some cases expanding at a rate where they are finding it hard to fill the skilled jobs."

He also refused to recognise figures which show the poor will lose more as a percentage of their income than the rich.

"In every budget we have had, we have always asked the richest to pay the most, in the Autumn Statement this week we have taxed rich people's pensions and increased the number of people paying the higher rate of tax and if you look across our changes the richest ten per cent have paid ten times more than the poorest ten per cent," he said.

"We have done this in a way that's fair but what we have always said is it is not possible to deal with Britain's budget deficit just by hitting one group of people, everybody has to pay a share and it is necessary to deal with our welfare budgets and that's why it was quite right of the Chancellor to say, when lots of people working hard, in whatever sector they are in, have seen their incomes frozen and their pay frozen, you actually have seen quite a big increase in welfare benefits, so it makes sense to cap those at one per cent to make sure we are fair between those people who are working and who aren't."

Mr Cameron also told workers companies should be 'knocking down the doors' of emerging economies such as China and Brazil and seizing on the opportunities available, while pledging to do more to get banks lending and support apprentices and other training schemes to help upskill workers.

"This country is one of the easiest places to come and start a business and in the global race we are fighting in that's the sort of advantage you need to have."

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Buy photos» "The state was too big, the private sector was too small, the economy needed reblancing" - David Cameron. (s)

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Buy photos» Workers asked questions about the state of the economy, training and the banking sector. (s)

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Buy photos» The economy is healing but it will take time Mr Cameron said. (s)

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