Here in the South West I am pleased to say we have the highest employment rate of any region in the UK which is vital when it comes to securing a stable future for ourselves and for our families. A strong economy is the best way a government can raise the funds to invest in our essential and precious public services and the economic growth we have overseen allows us to expand on areas like education which I passionate about. Since 2010 we have helped over 3.4 million more people into work and reduced the number of people who are unemployed by over 1.1 million. Most encouraging of all is that the annual jobs growth is driven almost entirely by full time work and in marked contrast to several European countries, we have reduced youth unemployment since 2010 so that are economy provides security for our whole society.
I have long been a champion of our high streets and voicing how significant their contribution is to the economy and to local communities which is why I ensured my first ever PMQ asked the Prime Minister what more we can do to support market towns like Chippenham, Melksham, Bradford on Avon and Corsham. I am therefore thrilled that the Conservative Party will be cutting business rates for small retailers and social hubs like pubs and cinemas by increasing their business rate discount from 33% to 50% to make our high streets sustainable and prosperous.
In Melksham I recently ran a Money Matters event to bring together organisations like HMRC, The Pensions Advisory Service, Hope Debt Advice and The Money Charity so constituents could access professional advice on everything from tax to pensions to day-to-day financial planning. I personally found it incredibly useful in terms of future financial planning and I know those that attended took similar advantage of the experts present. I think it can actually be extremely useful to talk to people face-to-face on these sorts of issues rather than over the phone because it makes the experience more personal and I want to organise further events that benefit local residents in this way and help us manage our money with great tips and advice.
Nationally, we have a record 32 million people in work who are keeping more of what they earn as a result of the brilliant Conservative Party policy on raising the personal tax allowance, which means the typical basic rate taxpayer now pays £1,205 less tax than in 2010 with the number of people taken out of income tax since 2015-16 having risen to 1.74 million. This means more take home pay and more money in your pocket to spend and by making economic growth cleaner and greener, the UK will move into the 2020s with a low carbon and healthy national economy which will mean so much for our own, vibrant local economy.