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West Kent Partnership – Business Engagement

west kent partnershipMichael’s speech at this event highlighted the importance of vibrant SMEs in West Kent to the national economy.  Representing a constituency in West Kent, he said could see first-hand the entrepreneurial zeal of our local business owners and discussed how the Government is backing them.

It is no secret: small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.  SMEs are the responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK.  And it is job creation which is a central part of this Government’s economic and welfare plans.  I am sure you will all join with me in welcoming last week’s employment figures which showed that there are now more people in work than ever before.  In the constituency of Sevenoaks we saw the claimant count fall by 225 from August 2013 – August 2014.

It is thanks to the risk takers, the thinkers and the doers who run our SMEs that more people than ever before have the security of a pay package and the Government is backing you wholeheartedly.  But to be able to create the jobs for our economic recovery, SMEs have to do business in an economy which is business-friendly. That’s is why he was so pleased that the Government is backing them in a number of ways:  Michael said:
1.  Tax cuts
“I am a low-tax Conservative so I am pleased that small businesses will now feel the impact of several important tax cuts.  Corporation tax has fallen to 21 per cent; help on business rates has come in; and the landmark Employment Allowance will take up to £2,000 off employers’ National Insurance bills.”
2.  Apprenticeships
“Everyone attending this event will know the value of helping our young onto the career ladder. To help small businesses take on apprentices the Government is providing an extra £85 million for over 100,000 grants to employers, and from April 2015 employer’s national insurance contributions for those under-21 will be abolished, making it easier for businesses to take on more young people.”
3.  Red Tape
“I am perhaps most pleased by the needless red tape which has been cut and the net burden of regulation on business which has fallen by almost £1.5 billion since January 2011.  Speaking to businesses in my constituency, they all say the same thing, red tape and regulation has held them back in the past and we must continue to elevate this burden from them.”
4.  Energy Costs
“I know from my time as Minister for Business and Energy that small businesses are struggling with energy costs. To help them get a fairer deal, the Government has secured an agreement from the major energy firms to end auto-rollovers for business customers, limit back-billing, increase transparency of contract terms and make switching easier.”
5.  Regional Growth Fund/Escalate Programme
“It is essential to give local communities more autonomy to help rebalance our economy towards private-sector growth. Ministers are improving economic development at the regional level through Enterprise Zones and the £3.2 billion Regional Growth Fund.  Significant funding is also being devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships to enable them to tackle barriers to growth in the private sector in their area.  Here in West Kent, we have already heard this morning of three success stories from the Escalate programme which is a £5.5 million scheme, funded by the Regional Growth Fund. Offering loans on an interest‐free basis to businesses has led to sustained job creation and business expansion.  Also, availability of business rate discounts and Enhanced Capital Allowance will each be extended by three years as an incentive for new and expanding businesses to locate in Enterprise Zones.”

“All over the country and especially here in West Kent, SME’s are driving forward economic growth through innovation and sheer hard work.  It is fantastic that there are now over two million new private sector jobs and 400,000 more businesses than in 2010.  So I encourage you all to continue to be part of the economic success story I look forward to watching you all go from strength to strength in the years to come.”

The Royal British Legion & the Armed Forces Covenant

_TOM7173Michael spoke at the Royal British Legion’s reception at the Conservative Party Conference recently.

Referring to the Armed Forces Covenant he said:  “It is particularly fitting, in the 100th year anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, to reflect on the importance of the Covenant.  Our armed forces today, like those of a hundred years ago, embody the best of British, and it is right we honour all that they do for our country.  We must never forget the willingness of our armed forces to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

Importance of The Military Covenant
“The Military Covenant recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families. This isn’t just about Government – it is about society’s commitment as a whole.”

“I am proud that this Government has enshrined the following principles in law:

  • that no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families should be disadvantaged compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services;
  • and that special consideration is appropriate especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

“Never again can the Covenant cease to be honoured.”

Government support
“Much progress has been made and I believe that the Covenant is making a real difference to members of the armed forces community – those who serve, whether regular or reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families.  We have achieved much in key areas including healthcare, education, and housing:

  • Introducing a service pupil premium and giving the Armed Forces priority to help their children find a place in school;
  • Investing £200 million in the Forces Help to Buy scheme enabling service personnel to get a foot on the housing ladder;
  • In July the Prime Minister announced 8 projects that will share nearly £20 million of funding to improve accommodation for armed forces veterans, including £2.5m for RBL;
  • And we are using the LIBOR fines to benefit our Armed Forces – using the penalties of the worst in society to benefit the best;
  • The Chancellor allocated an initial £35 million to projects ranging from special needs houses, to peer mentoring, and support for those dealing with mental health issues;
  • In July the Prime Minister announced the successful bidders for the £40 million Veterans Accommodation Fund;
  • I hope to shortly announce the successful projects as part of the LIBOR Childcare fund;
    And from next spring, we will make permanent a £10 million annual financial commitment.”

Community and corporate
“A big focus has been encouraging business and local authorities to do more:

  • All local authorities in Great Britain have signed up to the Community Covenant – meaning they are all now committed to supporting the armed forces family in their local communities;
  • Over 250 organisations have signed a Corporate Covenant committing to support the armed forces family through their business, including Reservists working for them;
  • And the Covenant has gone international. The Prime Minister personally championed the Armed Forces Declaration which at last month’s NATO Summit saw every Member signing up to honour and look after those whose work and sacrifices have delivered peace and security over the last 65 years.”

RBL Manifesto
“As Defence Secretary I am determined that we continue to strengthen the Covenant – it is an enduring commitment. And you the Royal British Legion play a vital part in that.  So I welcome the publication of your manifesto Building a Better Future for our Armed Forces Community – the first one of the General Election campaign”

“The RBL has outlined the many practical recommendations for strengthening the Covenant.  “I’m pleased that some we were already working:  on hearing aids, career transition plansand alcohol dependency I think we are making real progress. Others such as 18 week referrals I would be happy to look at evidence on. I can also assure you the war widows issue is being considered.  I’m sure you would like me to endorse them all but you will understand that I take the suggestions seriously and I want to give them due consideration.”

“In the meantime, I pay tribute to the excellent work RBL does and to all our serving men and women, veterans and their families, who do so much to keep us safe.”_TOM7197 _TOM7214_TOM7181royal british legion _TOM7189

Sevenoaks Business Awards

sevenoaks business awardsThe Sevenoaks Business Awards, organised by Sevenoaks Town Partnership was held at Coolings Garden Centre on Friday 26th September.

Many congratulations to the winners and all those who took part.  It was great evening, generously supported by sponsors and nominees, illustrating how well the small and medium-sized businesses in Sevenoaks have been growing recently.

Scottish Referendum – We’re Better Together

no thanksThis is a momentous and irreversible decision for the Scottish people on the future of the United Kingdom. As a Scot, born and educated in Scotland, my message to the Scottish people is simple: ‘We want you to stay’.

The United Kingdom is bigger, better and stronger together. The separatists have no answers to the most basic questions about independence, like what currency Scotland would use and how it could belong to the NATO alliance.

The choice is clearcut: a leap into the unknown with a Yes vote, or a brighter future for Scotland by voting No. That means remaining part of a United Kingdom, one of the greatest unions the world has seen, forging a more secure future in the world, and building more opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

better together

Call To Keep 2015 Rail Fare Rises Within Inflation

Michael has written to the CEO of Southeastern Rail, Charles Horton, calling on the rail company to ensure their 2015 fare rises are within inflation. In 2014 the government reduced average fare rises to inflation for the first time in a decade, saving more than a quarter of a million annual season ticket holders an average of £25 each.

Michael said: “Many commuters regularly contact my office or visit me at my advice surgeries to discuss their concerns about rail fares. Whilst they appreciate the help from the Government to reduce fares rises to inflation they also point out the role which rail companies must also play. Rail operators do not have to apply the maximum increase but can offset this through greater efficiency.  That is why today I have written to the CEO of Southeastern rail to ask him to reassure me and my constituents that any rail fare increases will be within inflation.”

New Post Office Current Account

SevenoaksPO14POSTERMichael visited the Sevenoaks Crown Post Office, South Park on 25th July to mark the extension of the Post Office’s current account facility to Sevenoaks.  Michael met the local manager, regional manager and local staff and was given the background to this new venture.  Now customers will be able to open a Post Office current account, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, with a minimum balance of £20 and take advantage of other generous offers.

Defence Secretary

modThe Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, appointed Michael as Secretary of State for Defence in his latest cabinet reshuffle.  Michael now has overall responsibility for the business of the Ministry of Defence, providing strategic direction on policy, operations, acquisition and personnel matters.

Regarding his appointment Mr Fallon said:

“To serve as Defence Secretary is an incredible responsibility and a great privilege. My job is to make sure our magnificent Armed Forces have the equipment and support they need to keep Britain safe.

I would like to reassure all my constituents that my role will have no effect on my constituency work, which I very much value.  I’ll still be holding my advice surgeries in Sevenoaks and Swanley as normal, will still be carrying out the same number of engagements and will still, very much, have time for the all those who live in the Sevenoaks constituency.

Constituency work is a vital part of any minister’s job and it will indeed remain a key part of mine – absolutely.”

Welcome for the New ISA

Michael has welcomed radical changes to savings which have come into force.

From 1 July millions of savers across the country are now able to save three times as much money in their Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs).  As part of the New ISA, the cash limit has gone up from £5,760 in 2013-14 to £15,000 in 2014-15.

• The overall New ISA limit is £15,000 – and this full amount can be held in either a cash ISA, a stocks and shares ISA, or any combination of the two.

• The New ISA will give savers complete flexibility over how to save and invest – allowing the transfer of savings previously held in a stocks and shares ISA to a cash ISA without losing the tax-advantage.

• Over 23 million adults have ISAs, and over 5 million people reach their cash limit every year. In the South East, 3,394,000 people have an ISA.

1,078,000 people in the South East have already reached the ISA limit and could benefit immediately from the increased limit.

At the same time, the annual subscription limits for Child Trust Funds (CTFs) and Junior ISAs will be increased to £4,000 to let families save more for their children in a tax-advantaged way.

Commenting Michael said: “These changes are about supporting savers at every stage – whether that’s saving for a home, saving for your family or saving for retirement. The New ISA will help millions of people to put aside money in savings and have more financial security.’

Chipping In To Tackle Stray Dog Problem

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity was delighted to be able to welcome Michael to a micro-chipping event in his constituency on Friday 27th June.

The event, held outside the West Kent Offices in Swanley was a great success, with local residents encouraged to bring their four legged friends along to take advantage of the free micro-chipping service on offer. A total of 27 dogs were chipped on the day while Dogs Trust representatives were also on hand to offer advice and answer any general queries about responsible dog ownership, reminding dog owners of the importance of keeping their microchip database details up to date.

With microchipping set to become compulsory for all dogs in England in 2016, roving teams of Dogs Trust representatives are touring the country in a bid to help promote responsible dog ownership and educate the public on the benefits of compulsory microchipping. Michael Fallon MP was able to talk with members of his constituency and discuss their views on the issue while learning just how vital compulsory micro-chipping is in reuniting stray dogs with their owners, deterring dog theft and as a measure to reduce puppy farming.

Michael said:  “I was delighted to be invited to attend this micro-chipping event in my constituency. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the work of Dogs Trust first hand and to learn just how significant micro-chipping can be in helping return lost or stray dogs to their owners. I support the work of Dogs Trust and believe that compulsory micro-chipping is a major step forward in dog welfare, not least for the part it will play in reducing the stray dog population in years to come. I urge local dog owners to take advantage of this simple and effective tool before it becomes compulsory  in 2016.”

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. They have eighteen re-homing centres across the UK and one in Ireland, and invest substantial resources in information services and education on responsible dog ownership.

Employment Figures Improving

Michael Fallon has welcomed new figures showing that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Sevenoaks has fallen by 260 over the last year, with employment up overall in the south-east by 222,000 since 2010

Since the General Election in May 2010 the number of people on unemployment benefit has fallen by 426.

Michael said: “It’s great news that there are now 260 fewer people on JSA in Sevenoaks and Swanley than there were last year.  That’s 260 people no longer needing benefits to get by, with a more secure, brighter future ahead of them.

“With the economy now recovering from the Great Recession, and businesses creating jobs, it’s clear the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan is working. We need to keep to the plan, which is delivering growth and jobs, so that more people in Sevenoaks who want to work hard and get on can have the security of a regular pay packet which they can bring home to their families.”