THE most difficult thing about any economic downturn is the subsequent rise in unemployment that almost always follows.

The economic crash of 2008-2009 was no exception. Despite the then Government’s best attempts, the economy shrank significantly and thousands of people lost their jobs. If there are two things we can take from the last 100 years, one is that unemployment is a sad reality of economic ruin and the other is that every Labour Government has always left office with unemployment higher than when they came in, despite their efforts to get people back into work. In this, Swindon was sadly not immune.

I think we would all agree that the first priority as any economy recovers is to create jobs and get people off benefits, back into work, where they want to be. That was particularly important in 2010 as the economic crisis had seen 400,000 jobs lost in the public sector and left the state unable to afford the bill for re-creating those jobs.

That is why we placed a huge emphasis on supporting businesses, the private sector employers who could generate the wealth and the jobs to get our economy moving again. This focus has paid off, with a staggering 1.6 million private sector jobs created in the last three years. Be it big businesses locating to the UK because of our competitive corporation tax rates, small businesses taking on more staff thanks to our national insurance cut or people taking the plunge and setting up a new business with our start-up loans, these jobs have replaced those lost in the public sector fourfold, and provided new opportunities for our unemployed.

An extra half a million apprenticeships and additional training opportunities have also brought hope to many trapped on welfare.

It therefore frustrates me that Labour still seem entirely focused on the negatives of what has come before.

Tales that Swindon’s young people have been abandoned, unable to find work, are as inaccurate as they are irresponsible. Over the last 12 months, youth unemployment in North Swindon has fallen by a staggering 23.1 per cent. Don’t tell them that they have no hope, it is cruel and unusual, they do have opportunities and we shouldn’t be scared of saying that. We shouldn’t be encouraging them to give up on themselves before they have even started out on their lives, it is unfair and misleading.

More widely, unemployment in Swindon has fallen significantly in 2013, with 636 people no longer dependent on the dole because they have found jobs.

This is fantastic news and reflects year-on-year falls in local unemployment since 2010.

Let’s be truthful. The economy is recovering, unemployment is falling and our young people do have opportunities. Let’s just make sure that they know that.