Getting things right . . .

The downturn in the economy, which is severe, is no doubt going to test still further the manufacturing base. Last Friday in Birkenhead was a tonic for lowly spirits. Part of the day I spent visiting LT Print Group. Based in Hamilton Street, and the bigger works over in Wallasey, LT Print Group is a model of what Britain has got to become if we are to maintain, let alone improve, living standards.

Here are the pointers for the future. The firm is owned, but more importantly, led by Robert McWilliams, who knows that British manufacturing (and the service sector as well) can only survive and prosper by embracing new technology.

In both the Birkenhead and Wallasey works, the firm thrives on an investment programme using the latest techniques. Success is also seen in other tangible ways.

Forty plus people are employed by the company, and as I moved about the two plants with Robert, it was also noticeable how busy people were but how this industry also helped create a happy environment. There did not seem to me to be any passengers living off the efforts of their colleagues.

Another tangible sign of success was the number of men employed. I am going to go on about this point over time until people are incredibly bored, but the most important change in local social ecology since I have been part of Birkenhead has been the collapse of male jobs paying family wages.

I noticed soon after the loss of a third of manufacturing jobs under Mrs. T, the rise of very young single parents. That horrendous cull of jobs (and a similar cull on a much smaller base over the last ten years) disenfranchised all too many males from becoming effective breadwinners.

It is when we add to this already dangerous cocktail a social security system that gives independence to very young, single mothers, largely closing a blind eye to fraud that makes the cocktail evil, if the nurturing of children successfully is to be a key goal of our society. Robert McWilliams shows what can be done. LT Print Group is one of the bigger private employers in the Wirral. He has also got some very interesting views about how schools should perform.

As we begin to reorganise secondary schools in the Wirral, I hope his voice and others like his are going to play a larger part in serving up a real New Deal for young people.

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