Gordon has used the Labour Conference in Liverpool to outline how the party’s National Education Service (NES) will create opportunities and widen access for people in Blackpool of all ages – both in terms of Higher and Further Education, but also Lifelong Learning.
He said: “Eight years of Tory cuts to adult learning, the closures of children centres, and the tripling of tuition fees have left people in Blackpool falling behind. Labour’s NES will put this right by giving people second chances and building an affordable education system which supports everyone throughout their lives.
“As a local MP and as a former Open University tutor I know how important access to part-time and lifelong learning are for people in Blackpool. The Tory removal of maintenance grants and tripling of fees have made this very difficult for my constituents. Since 2011/12 we have seen a 59% reduction in the number of people doing part-time undergraduate courses, which I know many in Blackpool and particularly women would look to normally undertake.
“I outlined at the “Access to Education” event with the New Statesman and NEONHE, Labour will restore the maintenance grants, but also make other associated costs like travel and accommodation more affordable. Widening participation is at the heart of the NES – whether it’s accessing a high skilled apprenticeship at BAE Systems in Warton or taking up a part-time degree at Blackpool & Fylde College, we need to make sure opportunities are open to everyone.”
He spoke at ten fringe events on the Monday looking at employment, skills and new Labour proposals to support smaller towns, including in the North West, at a roundtable with the Fabians Society. He described the challenges facing Blackpool and the “similarities” it had with other seaside towns post-Brexit.
Gordon added: “Blackpool is a town with thousands of hoteliers and small businesses. In my meetings at Labour conference I’ve been highlighting the crucial need for them to work closely with the local council but also engage with Labour’s new ideas to support small businesses. These include our plans to support them with apprentices and the announcement at Conference yesterday of a labour strategy to help small businesses on the high street.
“Towns such as ours have also undoubtedly been also affected by the closure of recent local bank branches, but also the Tory cuts to local councils have had a detrimental impact. Instead of being micromanaged by Whitehall, we need to devolve powers and funds so we can make better and more informed decisions for our coastal communities and towns like Blackpool.”
The other sessions included fringes with the Universities and College Union (UCU), the CBI and a joint session between the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities group MillionPlus. He ended the day speaking at the Apprenticeships Forum hosted by Journalist Kevin Schofield and met the Institution of Engineering and Technology, World Skills UK and Sir Robert McAlpine – a family owned building and civil engineering company.