It was a pleasure to join members of the Paignton Amateur Rowing Club on the bank holiday weekend to present a cup and join their celebration of opening new facilities and the naming of a new boat the ‘Stella Gale’.
We learned from her Granddaughter, Karen Harding, that Stella Gale was the daughter of boat builder Louis Gale and gained the skills of sailing and powered boats from a very young age.
When the long-standing Paignton harbour master, Mr George Moore died in 1930, she was hired to take his place at just 21 years old making her the first woman harbour master in Great Britain.
Her other exploits included sailing in the Olympic trials just after the war even though women back then were not allowed to skipper boats in the Olympics. It is thought she managed this for two reasons, firstly, because she was one of the best sailors in the country and she gave the competitors stiff competition, and because she wanted to prove a point.
It was because of the exploits of people like Stella Gale that young women in Britain today face less prejudice and fewer barriers in achieving their ambitions, something sadly still far from reality in many other countries of the world.
Locally Torbay Council’s current and previous Chief Executive Officers have been women. The people in the top jobs locally delivering hospital care, primary care and social care are all women. Two of South Devon’s 3 MPs are women. The head of our employment service is female and now Torbay’s new top cop, Acting Superintendent Nikki Leaper is, you’ve guessed it.
A plaque was unveiled for the new facilities opened on the day by the Mayor; perhaps another is long-overdue for one of Torbay’s pioneering women.
Getting people into work is an absolute priority for helping our economy to grow again.
It is still early days but according to industry figures already more than 207,000 people were helped into a job through the Work Programme by the end of September 2012 and performance is clearly improving, but there are still doubts about its true effectiveness.
The work programme is focused on getting those who are furthest from the workplace back into work. It is a relatively new programme, but is innovative because it gets a good deal for the taxpayer as the providers are only paid when they get people into work.
The payment by results model goes further than any previous scheme to encourage providers to help all claimants, including the hardest to help. The key point is they earn the majority of their payment for helping someone into work and keeping them there.
However, there are doubts surrounding this approach in that some studies suggest it is no more successful than leaving job seekers to their own devices as it is primarily employer confidence that creates employment.
This argument has some force when you look at what is happening locally. Unemployment continues to fall and at a faster rate than anywhere else in Devon thanks to the by-pass effect as local businesses gain confidence on the back of long overdue Government investment in infrastructure.
Nationally the statistics are beginning to look brighter and as each statistic is a human being it has to be welcomed that there are 434,000 more people in work today than there were last year. From the same period last year there has been an overall drop in unemployment of 92,000.
Accepting some of these jobs might not pay as well as some of those that have been lost the shift in public to private sector employment has actually been far less significant than expected with the number of public sector jobs lost dwarfed by those created in the private sector.
Overall there are more people in work than ever before but not for one moment should anyone be complacent as the real task here in Torbay has to be to improve the value of the employment on offer and its sustainability. That prize is still a long way off.
When they met the Prime Minister failed to raise Google’s tax affairs directly with the company’s boss Eric Schmidt. That task fell to the Deputy Prime Minister who highlighted that the internet company was among those causing massive public concern over the amount of tax it pays.
Google is the American company behind the search engine of the same name that now handles around two thirds of worldwide on-line searches. It makes its money from selling advertising in different countries that then appears alongside the links to the content you have searched for. Controlling searches on the internet is as close as it comes to having a licence to print money.
What angers people is that though they pay their taxes, work hard, aspire to do the right things for themselves and their families some international corporations and a wealthy elite seem able to pay an army of accountants to get out of paying their fair share of tax; picking and choosing the taxes they pay.