20 September 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Latest inflation figures will be “of cold comfort”
  • Liberal Democrats call for increase to apprenticeship pay as dropout rates soar
  • Davey: Sunak is trashing the economy of the future
  • Over 1,000 sewage leaks in armed forces’ accommodation
  • Davey: This is not leadership from Rishi Sunak, this is putting the UK at the back of the queue

Latest inflation figures will be “of cold comfort”

The latest inflation figures show that inflation has fallen slightly to 6.7% from 6.8% in August. Responding to the news Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP said:

This news will be of cold comfort for families across the country still struggling with sky high prices and mortgages because the Conservatives have crashed the economy.

Ministers still simply haven’t got a clue how to protect hardworking people’s wallets during the cost of living crisis.

Rishi Sunak should not pat himself on the back whilst this crisis carries on, the Government must do more.

Liberal Democrats call for increase to apprenticeship pay as dropout rates soar

Apprenticeships in shortage occupations have fallen by up to 73%, research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats reveal, while in some sectors three in four apprentices are dropping out before completing their course.

It comes as the party is set to adopt proposals to increase pay for apprenticeships to at least the minimum wage, as part of a new industrial strategy being unveiled at its Autumn Conference this weekend.

A collapse in new apprenticeships is contributing to the crippling skills shortages affecting British businesses, making it even harder for them to fill vacancies. House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats shows that sectors listed in the Government’s official “shortage occupation list” have seen particularly stark falls in apprenticeships.

Health and social care, a key sector facing major staffing issues, has seen the number of new apprentices fall from 47,700 in 2015-16 to just 18,200 last year – a fall of 62%. The fall is even worse in the manufacturing sector, where apprenticeships fell from 26,370 in 2015-16 to a mere 3,560 in 2021-22 – a 73% drop. Other shortage sectors, such as science and agriculture have also seen massive drops, of 59% and 52% respectively.

Meanwhile, people looking to start an apprenticeship face a huge financial penalty, as the minimum wage in the first year of an apprenticeship is just £5.28 an hour – almost half the normal minimum wage of £10.42.

This low pay is contributing to staggeringly high drop-out rates for apprenticeships in shortage occupations. In health and social care, more than half (52%) of apprenticeships ended in a drop out last year, whilst over a third (35%) of those in a manufacturing apprenticeship didn’t finish their training. Dropout rates for medicine and dentistry roles reached an astonishing 76%.

At their Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, Liberal Democrats will be debating proposals to fix the broken apprenticeship system, tackle skills shortages and grow the economy. The proposals include paying all apprentices the regular minimum wage, supporting businesses by cutting business rates and energy bills, and reintroducing an industrial strategy to unlock new investment.

Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat Treasury and Business Spokesperson said:

This Conservative government crashed the economy and is now sitting on the sidelines with no plan to fix the damage they’ve caused. It is incredibly damning that apprenticeships are plummeting in the very sectors that the government has identified as having severe skills shortages.

Currently, first year apprentices are paid a shockingly low wage, almost half the national minimum wage. We would fix the broken apprenticeship system by making it much more flexible for employers and ensuring apprentices are paid a fair wage, helping to tackle soaring drop out rates.

This forms part of the bold Liberal Democrat plan for a new industrial strategy to get our economy growing strongly again and tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Davey: Sunak is trashing the economy of the future

Responding to reports that the Prime Minister is set to water down key clean energy pledges, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“The Conservatives have already trashed the economy of today. Now Rishi Sunak seems intent on trashing the economy of the future as well.

“The British people are trying to do the right things for our planet, even as they are struggling to make ends meet. But they have been let down over and over again by this out-of-touch Conservative Government.

“This latest Conservative chaos is putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the UK, and leaving families and pensioners paying sky-high energy bills.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives clearly don’t have a clue what’s best for the future of our planet or our economy.”

Over 1,000 sewage leaks in armed forces’ accommodation

There have been a staggering 1,186 reports of sewage issues in Ministry of Defence accommodation over the last year, a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The figures reveal that armed forces’ accommodation has faced issues including the “backing up of toilets and kitchen sinks, blocked sewage and foul water drains.”

Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson and former Army Major Richard Foord said it was “shameful” that armed forces personnel are having to live in homes plagued by foul sewage issues.

Issues with maintenance have plagued service family accommodation, while a 2021 report by the Public Accounts Committee detailed the “neglect” of Single Living Accommodation for service personnel.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for improvements to “grossly inadequate” armed forces’ housing at their Autumn Conference in Bournemouth this weekend, including bringing in minimum quality standards and reviewing existing contracts with maintenance contractors. This forms part of proposals to reverse the Conservative Government’s cuts to the Army.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Richard Foord MP said:

It is shameful that our armed forces personnel are having to put up with substandard accommodation, including homes that are leaking sewage.

Having served with soldiers who are affected, I know just how important it is that we value them properly and treat them with respect, instead of simply assuming that they will put up with it as this Government seems to.

Providing a decent home should be the bare minimum, yet the Conservatives continue to place our service personnel and their families in accommodation which is too often totally inadequate.

The Liberal Democrats are fighting for a fair deal for armed forces personnel, including reversing short-sighted cuts to the Army and urgently improving the accommodation for service personnel and their families.

Davey: This is not leadership from Rishi Sunak, this is putting the UK at the back of the queue

Responding to the Prime Minister’s press conference where he watered down key clean energy pledges, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This is not leadership from Rishi Sunak, this is putting the UK at the back of the queue as the rest of the world races to embrace the industries of tomorrow.

The Prime Minister’s legacy will be the hobbling of our country’s future economy as he ran scared from the right wing of his own party. It is selfish and it epitomises his weakness.

At the very time we need to stand up and lead, Sunak rolled over.

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