Spending Review will focus on raising skills, says Brown

Raising skills levels will be central to the next Spending Review, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said today.

Speaking at the launch of today's National Skills Strategy, Gordon Brown said that entrenching stability and tackling excessively high levels of unemployment were the first goals of government.

"Having made progress in entrenching stability and raising employment, our national priority must be to ensure a flexible economy by raising skills levels," he said.

"Only by becoming number one for our skills will our economy become number one for its success."

The Chancellor said that he would present further measures for labour market flexibility in Parliament tomorrow. This, alongside the National Skills Strategy – which seeks to offer free training for anyone without a good foundation of employability skills, and better information, advice and guidance on skills, training and qualifications – would help to achieve the government's goal of full employment.

He added: "Everyone here knows already that skills - particularly in basic and intermediate qualifications - are, today the British Achilles' heel, the most worrying inflexibility of all within our labour market and this is the first comprehensive strategy for years to tackle the problem."

According to the Chancellor, there were almost 600,000 vacancies in the economy at the moment – 10,000 in the North East, nearly 15,000 in Wales, 24,000 in the West Midlands, 25,000 in Scotland and 30,000 in the North West.

But while around 25% of the UK's workforce has degree level skills, there are still eight million men and women with low or no skills – including 20% of 18 to 24 year olds, Mr Brown said.

"I can say today with certainty that skills are going to be central to the next Spending Review and I look forward to continuing to work closely with Charles Clarke, Andrew Smith and Patricia Hewitt, as well as with all of you here, from CBI, TUC, Small Business Council - central and local government, employers and employees as we take this strategy forward," he said.


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