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Benn and Duncan Smith join their parties' election efforts in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 18:48 30 April 2015 | UPDATED: 19:05 30 April 2015

Hilary Benn with David Ellesmere in Lindbergh Road.

Hilary Benn with David Ellesmere in Lindbergh Road.

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Two senior front bench politicians visited Ipswich yesterday as the battle for votes in next week's general election continued.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith visited DPL Electrical in Greenwich Close to find out how it is bringing along the next generation of staff by running a successful apprenticeship scheme.

He was in town the day he was at the heart of a political storm over a future Conservative government’s plans for welfare cuts after LibDem Chief Secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander said three years ago Conservative ministers had considered cutting £8 billion from the Child Benefit bill by restricting the amount parents could claim.

Mr Duncan Smith said he had heard nothing about the proposal for the last three years – it had been one of a number of ideas suggested in a document commissioned by Mr Alexander and had been rejected by the coalition.

Earlier in the day Shadow Local Government Secretary Hilary Benn had joined Labour campaigners in the Priory Heath area of the town – and had visited the new council homes being built in Bader Close.

He said Labour would make it easier for young people to buy their first homes – and would also protect private tenants by offering them more security and ensuring rents only went up in line with inflation.

Mr Benn warned that an incoming Labour government would follow the current administration’s desire to see more efficiencies in local government – but would be looking to changing the funding formulas which currently benefit the most affluent areas at the expense of deprived areas.

And he said a new way of delivering social care would have to be developed alongside the NHS: “This is the biggest challenge we face as a society.

“The country has to face up to incredible pressures and the health and social services departments are going to have to work much more closely together to ensure they can provide the care that is needed.”

During his visit to DPL Electrical Mr Duncan Smith met a number of apprentices at different stages of their training.

The company, which has 86 employees, has 15 apprentices – and has taken on apprentices since it was founded in 2001. Its original apprentices are still working for the firm and are now among its more experienced staff.

However director Fran Dinsdale said age restrictions made recruiting older apprentices difficult: “We only get full funding of apprentices up to their 19th birthday – after that we have to fund their training.

“Some people don’t really know what they want to do until they’re older and that means we either have to take a risk and spend a lot of money on their training – or turn to younger people instead.”

Mr Duncan Smith said looking at changing the age qualification was something that he would like to look at – if the current government is re-elected next week.

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