Labour leader Keir Starmer kicked off a summer out on the road with calls for skilled jobs to revitalise Blackpool during a walkabout in the resort.
He said while it was important to power up the hospitality industry in the immediate aftermath of the Covid pandemic, high quality jobs were key to the long term prosperity of the town.
“But I think there’s a bigger issue beyond hospitality and that is a plan for high quality jobs in Blackpool
Keir Starmer talks to council officials on the Comedy Carpet
“I was at St Mary’s School this morning with 16, 17 and 18-year-olds and when I asked them if they think they will have to leave Blackpool for the jobs they want to do, they all put their hands up.”
Mr Starmer was at the start of a three-day visit to Blackpool as part of a series of road trips between now and the autumn to discuss Labour’s ideas with local communities.
These include a ‘Jobs Promise’ to ensure every young person away from work for six months is offered a quality education, training or employment opportunity.
Labour wants the government to put unspent funds from its apprenticeship levy towards a wage subsidy that it says could create 85,000 new apprenticeships for young people aged between 16 and 24 this year.
Labour leader Keir Starmer during his visit to Blackpool
Mr Starmer said “instead of a politician coming to Blackpool for an afternoon”, he was spending three days setting out his proposals to people.
He added: “So it’s a different way of doing politics. I’m not here with a speech, I’m not here to preach, I’ve come here with new ideas that I’m sharing with different groups in Blackpool over a three-day period, trying out ideas for what the future is after the pandemic.
“But making it clear place matters.”
As well as meeting with pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Academy, he also chatted to youngsters from South Shore Academy, and visited UR Potential community interest company on Central Drive.
There was time for a fish and chip lunch at Harry Ramsden’s, a walk across the Comedy Carpet and a stroll alongside holidaymakers on North Pier.
Blackpool Council also took the opportunity to showcase progress at its £28m new conference centre being built at the Winter Gardens, prompting strong hopes Labour could bring its main conference back to the resort.
Mr Starmer said: “I would love to bring our conference back here and that’s been very much discussed while I have been here.
“Obviously I have been to see the conference facilities and it is state-of-the-art, it looks fantastic and I can envisage what it’s going to look like.
“So we’ll have discussions and there are things to be worked out, but I would love to bring the Labour conference back to Blackpool.”
But he did not back calls by Blackpool South Conservative MP Scott Benton to resurrect the super-casino plan as part of the resort’s economic future.
The Labour boss said his talks with residents suggested “they don’t see a super casino as the silver bullet” towards prosperity.
He said: “They would much rather have a properly structured plan for Blackpool that allows them to survive year on year.”
This he added would mean “so when I next ask in schools in Blackpool, can you get the job you want here in Blackpool, the answer will be yes.”
Proposals being debated by Labour with communities this summer are –
A £15bn Children’s Recovery Plan – including breakfast clubs and small group tutoring to help children catch up, mental health support in schools and an extension of free school meals.
A Jobs Promise to ensure every young person away from work for six months is offered a quality education, training or employment opportunity.
Proposals to ‘Make, Buy and Sell More in Britain’ – to help bring the jobs of the future to towns like Blackpool.