The number of young people currently not in education, employment or training is almost at the one million mark. That’s a disgrace. I wrote to the government months ago to appeal for businesses to be supported with a sliding incentive scheme – and I’d take on 20 new apprentices tomorrow if that were to happen. And I don’t think I’d be the only one. I even challenged Lord Mandelson and his pals to prove their commitment and get some first-hand experience with our young people at Pimlico – but it was an invitation that was blankly refused. So we were delighted when David Willetts MP, the shadow minister for universities and skills, paid us a visit this week and rolled up his sleeves to work alongside our apprentices. I’ve made no secret of my thoughts on the government’s failed attempt to help young people, with its apprenticeship scheme fronted by Lord Sugar. It’s a joke. And an expensive failure at that, costing £2.8m and reportedly helping just 25 young people each week! Then again, it doesn’t really matter what the government thinks or does anymore. As far as I can see, the country is being run by the bankers anyway! I can’t say I’m surprised that the UK Payments Council (a self-appointed gang of bankers, despite the independent sounding name) has voted in its own interest and to hell with everyone else. It has decided to phase out cheques by October 2018 – but only if “adequate” alternatives are developed. Who gets to decide on whether this condition is met? My money’s on the UK Payments Council electing itself as the final arbiter on that one, too. Let’s be clear – this is a way of making more money for banks at the expense (quite literally) of everyone else. This will hurt businesses and increase inflation at a time when what is required is encouragement not penalties. Meanwhile, I made a very special journey back up to Warrington this week to join the guys at Long Lane Garden Centre (one of the charities I visited during my time with Secret Millionaire) for their Christmas party. It was really nice of them to invite me and, while there, I even tested out the new toilet block we’ve installed for them. Charlie Mullins launched Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 with just a bag of tools and a very old van bought at auction. It now has over 133 professional plumbers and a support team of around 35 staff, with a turnover of more than £15m. Related articles:Charlie Mullins, Secret Millionaire: The revelationNinety minutes with Lord Sugar
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