It’s just 47 days until the local elections.
Many of you in this room will be on the ballot paper on 2 May…
…Others will be knocking on doors and delivering leaflets for those who are.
After 2009, when these councils were last up for election, the map of county councils was a sea of blue.
We won Lancashire and Derbyshire for the first time in 28 years.
Staffordshire for the first time in 32.
And Somerset and Devon from the Lib Dems.
In 47 days’ time, we’ll be defending those councils and the great work they’ve done.
This time, we’re in government, and taking the tough choices needed to turn our economy around.
But we’re on the right course.
The deficit is down by a quarter.
Benefits have been capped.
And businesses have created over a million new jobs.
So there’s a clear choice on 2 May…
…the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband, who got us into this mess – and whose answer to the debt crisis is more spending, more borrowing and more debt…
…or the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, who are dealing with the deficit so we pay our way in the world, and supporting aspiration – so people who work hard can get on in life.
We are delivering on crime
Those tough choices aren’t stopping us from delivering on the things that matter.
At the Home Office, we are cutting spending by 23 per cent.
That’s involved some hard decisions.
But we’ve also cut the thing that really matters – crime.
Since the election, recorded crime is down by more than 10 per cent.
Under the Crime Survey for England and Wales, it’s at its lowest ever level.
And I want it to keep falling.
When I became Home Secretary, I told the police I was scrapping all the national targets Labour used to give them, and setting the police just one objective – to cut crime.
They’re doing precisely that.
And rather than watching over their shoulder from Whitehall, we’ve introduced Police and Crime Commissioners – a single, local figure who you can hold to account.
For the first time ever, people in England and Wales have a local law and order champion – one person who sets the budgets and the priorities, and brings people together to get things done.
To help people measure how well they’re doing, we’ve brought in street-level crime maps.
The Police.uk website went live two years ago. Since then, it has received over 548 million hits.
At the click of a mouse, it has given you the information you need to hold your local force to account and ensure that crime continues to be driven down.
Recently, we’ve added a new ‘draw your own area’ function allowing you to create your own crime map.
So rather than trawl through meaningless statistics, you can now check the safety of your village, estate, or route to work…
…Or even your county council division.
One of the crimes we’re tackling is the growing problem of metal theft.
It’s a crime which blights communities across the country, delaying commuters on their way to work, and desecrating cherished buildings like churches, village halls and war memorials.
We’re acting to stamp it out.
We’ve stopped the ‘no questions asked’ cash payments which allowed unscrupulous traders to evade checks.
We’ve increased the financial penalties for illegal traders – who now face fines of up to £5,000.
And we’re creating a tougher, locally administered licence regime.
But there’s more.
Two weeks ago, the Scrap Metal Dealers Act became law.
It was introduced by a Conservative MP – Richard Ottaway – and backed by the Government.
For the first time, it will allow local councils to suspend or revoke metal trader licences where they suspect illegal activity.
Thanks to this Conservative law, the metal thieves who blight our communities won’t be able to profit from their ill-gotten loot.
So thank you, Richard.
Just as PCCs are working hard to fight crime at a local level, so we’re making sure that our police can rise to the national – and international – challenges we face.
We’ve set up the College of Policing.
It will help to forge a police force fit for the 21st century…
…building on the professionalism of our police officers and ensuring that our police remain the envy of the world.
We are also creating the National Crime Agency.
I’m afraid that Labour neglected the problem of organised crime.
For too long, large numbers of organised criminals have been able to get away with it.
That’s something the National Crime Agency is going to change.
More than 30,000 people and 5,000 gangs are involved in organised crime in the UK. They cost our economy up to £40 billion every year.
Ours is the first Government to have an organised crime strategy. It will enable us to bring to bear the full power of the state against organised criminals.
We’re already recovering more criminal assets than ever before. And later this year, the National Crime Agency will take on the organised criminal gangs directly.
So: whether it’s the petty criminals who make life a misery in your neighbourhood...
…or the gangs arranging crime on a global scale, we are on their case – and we are delivering.
We are delivering on immigration
We are also delivering on one of the issues that matters most to voters: immigration.
It’s an issue I hear about on the doorstep too.
Between 1997 and 2010, net migration to Britain – the difference between people coming and people leaving – totalled more than 2.2 million.
That’s more than twice the population of Birmingham.
When we came to power, we made a clear promise to the British public…
…After thirteen years of uncontrolled mass immigration, this government would reduce and control immigration.
Since then, we’ve taken action across the board.
We’ve capped economic migration, reformed family visas, and cut out the widespread abuse of the student route into the country.
And the results show that our policies are working.
The most recent set of official statistics were published just over a fortnight ago.
They showed that annual net migration is down to 163,000.
That’s down by almost a third since the election
I see that Yvette Cooper has tried to rubbish that achievement.
She claimed that the recent falls are due to British people leaving the country.
But the facts don’t fit.
The Office for National Statistics made clear that net migration is down because the number of people coming to Britain is ‘significantly lower’ than the year before.
So Yvette needs to check her facts.
But I’m not surprised she doesn’t want to believe them – because Labour still won’t back our policy of reducing the level of net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
And they’ve opposed all the measures we’ve taken to do it.
So there’s a clear choice. The Labour Party, who let immigration get out of control, and who still haven’t learned...
…or the Conservatives, who want to get net migration down to the tens of thousands, and who’ve already cut it by a third.
There was more good news in the recent immigration statistics.
The number of people in work is up by well over half a million compared to last year…
…And in sharp contrast with what happened under the last government, 88 per cent of that increase was ccounted for by British-born workers.
We want to make sure that our immigration system works in the national interest.
We have always been clear that we want Britain to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world…
…the top academics, the brightest students, the best businessmen, investors, skilled workers and entrepreneurs
who will contribute to our society, our economy and our way of life.
But that is not what the system we inherited from Labour did.
They claimed they had introduced a points-based system that would only let in highly-skilled workers.
We looked into some of those people.
A short investigation revealed that thirty per cent of people here on a visa supposedly reserved for the ‘highly killed’ were working as shop assistants, security guards, supermarket cashiers and care assistants.
One was working as the duty manager at a fried chicken restaurant.
Those are all valid jobs – but they’re not highly-skilled, and we have people here already who could do them.
That’s why we replaced Labour’s system with a simple requirement…
…for a work visa now, you need a proper job offer with a minimum salary.
Our reforms to economic migration have a clear message: If you have skills we need, and a company is willing to give you a job, come to Britain.
If you have an investment to make, do it in Britain.
And if you have a great business idea, bring it to Britain.
But Britain doesn’t need any more unskilled immigration. And our reforms to the immigration system have already reduced it very significantly.
We’ve taken the same approach to student visas. Again, the system we inherited from Labour was a mess.
Students were coming to Britain not to study but to work. Many colleges were selling not an education but immigration.
And students, supposedly temporary visitors, were staying here permanently.
When we came to government, we found ‘students’ turning up at Heathrow unable to answer basic questions in
English or even give simple details about their course.
These students weren’t the best and the brightest, they weren’t coming to Britain to study, and they weren’t making a meaningful contribution to our economy.
So we clamped down on that abuse.
We required any institution that wanted to bring foreign students to Britain to pass inspection checks to prove they were selling education, not immigration.
We changed the immigration rules to make clear that if you want to study here, you have to be able to speak English, support yourself financially without working, and prove that you’re studying a legitimate course at a genuine college or university.
And to prevent people switching courses – a tactic that kept some students here for years – we set maximum time limits for study.
But while our reforms have been stripping out abuse, we are making sure that Britain remains open to the brightest and the best.
So while the overall number of student visas has fallen, there has been an increase in applications to the university sector.
Because we have always been clear that in cutting out the abuse of student visas, we want the best minds in the world to come to study in Britain, and we want our world-class universities to thrive.
Just like our changes to economic immigration, our changes to student visas strike a balance, and send a clear message…
…If you can speak English, and you can get a place on a legitimate course at a genuine university, you can come to study in Britain…
…But student visas are not a backdoor route into working in Britain, and we will not tolerate the kind of abuse we saw under Labour.
I know a lot of people are concerned about the ending of transitional controls on Romania and Bulgaria at the end of this year.
From January, people from those two countries will be able to exercise their right to free movement – just as Britons can travel freely across the EU.
Back in 2004, when Poland and other Eastern European countries joined the EU, we campaigned for transitional controls – but Labour refused, allowing more than a million workers into the country.
Labour left us exposed – and we all saw the results.
This time round, we have had restrictions – Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 – but we’ve extended them for as long as we can.
And it’s important to remember that we won’t be the only country relaxing them at the end of the year.
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain will all be lifting them by the end of this year.
But we’re not simply sitting back and waiting like Labour did.
The last Government spent their time trying to predict how many people might come to the UK – and got their guesswork horribly wrong.
We’re spending our time tightening up the ‘pull factors’ which attract people to Britain for the wrong reasons.
We’re making sure our benefits system sends the message that Britain is not a soft touch for low-skilled or unemployed migrants.
We’re making clear that the NHS is a national – not an international – health service.
We’re pushing local authorities to publish the number of people from overseas who are taking social housing ahead of those who have waited a long time in the queue.
And we’re working with other European governments to cut out the abuse of free movement and other scams such as sham marriages.
So when the transitional controls are lifted at the end of this year, we will have a clear message to Romania and Bulgaria, as to the rest of the world:
Britain is an aspiration nation – a place where those who work hard can get on in life – but we are not a soft touch.
And we will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system.
When Labour were in Government, they let immigration get out of control and ignored people’s concerns.
Now that the Conservatives are in Government, we are getting a grip on immigration and answering those concerns.
We listened. We promised to cut immigration. And the figures show that we are delivering.
So as you return to that sea of blue councils – whether you’re battling to defend a seat, or fighting to gain it – take pride in that record.
Crime cut by 10 per cent.
Net migration down by a third.
And a quarter of the deficit already cleared.
That’s a record to be proud of.
A record of delivery.
And one worth fighting for in May.