Pay boost will be reward for closing gap - PM

ENDING the North-South divide on economic growth is a goal that could be worth thousands of pounds to families in Yorkshire, according to the Prime Minister.

Samantha Cameron watches Prime Minister David Cameron during a PM Direct question and answer session with employees at Asda's head office in Leeds.

David Cameron yesterday set out plans to ensure the North grows at the same pace as the rest of the country over the next five years if the Conservatives win the election.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “What it looks like is more jobs, more apprenticeships, higher wages, more take home pay. If we can close this gap it will be worth thousands of pounds to families in the North of England.

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“There are some good signs, because here in Yorkshire for instance the employment rate is growing faster than elsewhere in the country but we need to keep this up.

“The plans for transport, for skills, for devolution of power, all those things have the same aim in mind which is to close the North-South divide.”

Mr Cameron had earlier answered question from staff crowded around the atrium at Asda’s headquarters in Leeds.

During the event he was put on the spot by a member of Asda staff who is among a group of Leeds parents whose children have been allocated to a Sikh-ethos free school miles away from their homes because their nearest schools are full.

The Prime Minister promised her he would have a “really good look” into her case adding: “There is an issue of needing more good school places. What we’ve done is set aside £7 billion in the next Parliament to go on investing in primary and secondary schools to build more.

“Some of those will be built by local authorities, by academies and some of them, yes, will be free schools and I’ve seen here in Yorkshire examples of free schools that have come along, established themselves in the state sector, they are free to the people who use them, and provide a great education.”

It emerged last month that more than 20 families in Leeds had been allocated places at the Khalsa Science Academy despite not listing it among their preferences.

The places have been given to children who missed out on places at their nearest schools in North Leeds on the basis that the Academy should be moving to a site in Alwoodley this summer.

But delays mean it will still be at its temporary site several miles away in Chapeltown when the new school year begins.

Critics have argued free schools - which are set up by parents or other groups with state funding - take away money which could be used to provide places where they are needed.

Speaking after the event, the Prime Minister said: “First of all, free schools don’t take money away from other schools, they are separately funded. But also, free schools are overwhelmingly being built in areas where there is a shortage of places.

“I would argue even where a free school is built elsewhere it demonstrates that parents aren’t happen with the education provision they are getting and they want a choice of more good schools.

“Frankly, some choice and innovation and competition works in every other avenue of life, I think it works in education too.”

He added: “What I want for parents is what I want for my own children which is a place at a good or outstanding school and there are a million more nationwide than there were five years ago but we need to go further and free schools are part of that.”