A ‘POWER house of the north west’, was how Prime Minister David Cameron described Warrington during a visit to the town on Wednesday.

The Conservative leader said the Government needs to make use of ‘regional power houses’ in order to grow the economy.

Mr Cameron was speaking at United Utilities base on Lingley Mere Business Park, Great Sankey, where he praised the apprenticeship programme offered by the water company.

He said: “We have been giving far too much focus to London, and on the regional power houses in the north west, like Warrington, Liverpool and Manchester.”

It was revealed 3000 people applied for only 40 available apprenticeships at United Utilities.

The Prime Minister did not comment on how oversubscribed applications were, but said UU bosses told him many of those who did apply did not have the necessary level of basic English and maths.

He said it was up to schools to ensure children were being educated adequately in English and maths, which he called ‘vocational subjects, not just academic’.

“We need to do better in schools, explaining to people where the opportunities are.

“We are totally failing to understand that the basics of education must include English and maths.”

Mr Cameron also answered questions on welfare, immigration, membership of the EU, and tuition fees.

He told the packed room of UU employees and visitors he was ‘clamping down’ on welfare payments to ensure it ‘pays more to work, than be unemployed’.

The Prime Minister defended £9,000 a year tuition fees, as they were ‘needed’ to pay for ‘good universities’.

He said immigration from people outside of the EU had been reduced by a third, but that within the EU immigration was ‘more difficult’ to reduce.

This was due to laws that allow people to move to work.

However, the Tory leader said too many were ‘looking for work’ but ‘ended up in the unemployment system’.

He also said the Government’s economic plan ‘is working’.

Mr Cameron added: “The plan is working and we should stick to that plan.

“We can see that with jobs and the recovery we have seen in the economy.

“There are 1.8 million more people in work than there were four years ago.”

“It’s a plan based on the values I think makes this country great, that hard work is rewarding.”