Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

Business-is-good-for-Kent-logo1The West Kent Partnership of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which includes Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks hosted a business breakfast today:  West Kent – The Big Priorities – Have Your Say.  80 businesses were represented at the breakfast to discuss the big, local issues that are holding their business back.

Michael opened the Conference and Exhibition with the following speech:

“It’s a pleasure to be here and to see some many of the  businesses that are making a major contribution to our growing economy and creating jobs for local people.

“What is striking about the last five years is the rate of business creation. Across the South East there are 103,000 more business now than in 2010 – 750,000 in total for the country.

“If you cast your mind back to 2010 that is a remarkable change. Back then our economy was in trouble, with a budget deficit second only to Greece.  But it doesn’t surprise those of us who understand that it is businesses that generate the wealth that funds our public services.

“That’s why despite the fiscal challenges we faced, the cornerstone of our economic plan was to back business.  We’ve cut corporation tax, increased tax incentives for investing in growing businesses, cut the jobs tax, and invested in infrastructure.

” It is thanks to the efforts of millions of firms across the country that we are now the fastest growing major economy in the world.  And that 1000 new jobs have been created everyday in this parliament – three quarters of them full time jobs.

“I was fortunate to be Business Minister for 18 months. In that role I championed business and the concerns that the Chambers of Commerce and others raised – cutting red tape, improving the supply of credit to small firms by backing challenger banks and new providers such as peer-to-peer lenders, and simplifying business support.

“On local growth, I worked with local authorities and LEPs to agree Growth Deals and give them greater powers and freedom to help improve infrastructure and support business in their areas.

“In the Budget the Chancellor outlined further measures to promote growth including an ambition for ultrafast broadband to be available to nearly all premises, a comprehensive review of business rates, and scrapping the annual tax return.

“But there is always more to do to help firms grow – whether it is to start exporting, to harness the potential of technology to move into new markets or innovate, or to increase access to finance.

“So I am delighted that West Kent B2B is leading the way in identifying barriers to growth and practical steps to help boost the local economy.  And I note that your agenda covers the big themes of tax, finance, technology that can help drive your businesses forward.”

Zed Music Café

With Zoe Ashfield, owner of  Zed Music Café
With Zoe Ashfield, owner of Zed Music Café

Last night Michael launched Link-Up, an initiative set up by Warners Solicitorés to provide networking opportunities for young professionals and associates, at an event hosted by Zed Music Café.

First he congratulated Zoe at the Zed Music Café for taking a huge step and setting up her own business and for hosting the event.

Michael said:  “Zoe’s business is one of the 750,000 more businesses than there were five years ago.  If we cast back to 2010 that is a remarkable change.  Back then our economy was in trouble, with a budget deficit second only to Greece.  The huge numbers of people starting a business has been a surprising feature of our economy since then.   And contrary to what some might say, this is a choice people have made because they have spotted an opportunity and have the confidence to pursue it.  It isn’t something borne of necessity.

“New firms and existing firms have driven the recovery to a position where

  • we are the fastest growing major economy in the world
  • 1000 new jobs have been created every day in this parliament – and three quarters of them are full time jobs

“And what is so important – not only to new businesses, but all businesses – is the advice that you can get from contacts, mentors or customers. Whether it is how to start exporting for the first time, how to secure that finance that you need, or how to get membership of a particular association.

“That’s why Link-Up is an excellent initiative and I hope the people you will meet and the experiences you can share will help all of you to succeed – and by doing so benefit Sevenoaks too.

“I was fortunate enough to be Business Minister for 18 months. In that time I visited some excellent businesses and it reinforced my view that as a country we don’t give enough credit to people in business.

“We all need to do more to make the case for enterprise because it is only with a strong economy and successful businesses that we can fund the public services, defence, the police upon which we all rely.

“As MP for Sevenoaks and a Minister I have been unashamedly pro-enterprise.  That means promoting competition, opening up markets, and championing new firms.  It’s something I’ve done whether in the business department scrapping red tape, or in energy backing new suppliers.  It’s what I am doing in Defence by opening up more spending to SMEs.  And it means delivering lower corporate and personal taxes to ensure Britain was competitive.

“Link Up can play a role in pushing us as a government to do more to help business – and to help make the case for enterprise.

 

I wish you all and the Zed Music Café every success.

The Skinners School

The Skinners School Lecture
The Skinners School Lecture

Michael accepted an invitation recently to speak to sixth-formers at The Skinners School on Globalisation,  looking at the benefits, drawbacks and consequences and drawing on past business experience, but the debate soon widened with questions from the floor.

Michael said:  “I really enjoy these events.  The questions from the students are probing and often quite thought-provoking.  It was a good afternoon.  The Skinners School looked impressive in all ways.”

skinners school

St Mary’s School, Swanley

Meeting Cllr Tony Searles,  and Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher with local police officers
Meeting Cllr Tony Searles, and Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher with local Swanley  Police Officers

Michael visited the school and met Mrs McGarrigle, Headteacher together with representatives from Swanley Town Council.  The school has been trying to tackle issues of antisocial behaviour coming from the recreation grounds which back onto the School.  Swanley Town Council has provided funding for some CCTV cameras and helped to repair a boundary fence.

Michael said:  “I was delighted to be able to return to St Mary’s School and meet Mrs McGarrigle and her team.  I’m really impressed with the way the Town Council has come forward to provide support and assistance in this particular instance.  The school needs reassurance that the students are in a safe and secure environment and the Town Council has been able to assist.”

Leadership Masterclass at Sevenoaks District Council

SDC Masterclass 2015
SDC Masterclass 2015

Michael presented certificates to 17 members of staff at Sevenoaks District Council who had recently completed an innovative management development programme, designed jointly by SDC and Passe-Partout.  This had covered a whole range of subject areas which are normally unfamiliar to much of local government.

All senior managers, including the Chief Executive, have had to complete 36 different modules.  More detail about this special programme can be found here.

The District Council has now started a second course which has been attended by the voluntary sector, Sevenoaks Town, parish councils and other local authorities.

Westerham Sea Cadets

First Aid Training
First Aid Training

Michael received a warm welcome from the CPO Jan Dean, colleagues and cadets when he toured TS Gallant in Westerham.  Various workshops were being held throughout the building covering all aspects of seamanship, chart work, engineering, first aid, catering and communication information systems.

There was an impressive drill rehearsal in preparation for a forthcoming competition on HMS Raleigh.

Engineering Training
Engineering Training

The unit is extremely active and flourishing.  17 cadets and 6 staff had recently travelled to Malta for a week long cultural trip and including a Memorial Day to HSM Gallant,

The summer months will be particularly busy with many outdoor activities.

Learn much more about Westerham Sea Cadets here.

Google Comes To Sevenoaks

Google came to Sevenoaks in April 2014
Google last came to Sevenoaks in April 2014

You may recall the ‘Google comes to Sevenoaks – Getting British Business Online’ event that Michael hosted at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks in April 2014.

Michael is hosting another Google event on Friday 20th March from 3 – 5pm at the Stag Theatre.

This workshop is to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to gain the necessary skills to get the most out of their digital marketing and boost their online presence.

A Google expert with deliver a presentation, followed by a break-out session where Google staff will be on hand to give 1 : 1 consultations, tips, guidance and practical advice on the effective use of Google tools.

This session is free and will be open to all who book a place in advance.  You can find further details here.

Calling for Free Wi-Fi on Southeastern Trains

wifiMichael has welcomed the Government’s announcement that £50 million of funding will be released from the Department for Transport to ensure free wi-fi is available on selected services from 2017, including those offered by Southeastern.

Michael Fallon said:  “I know Sevenoaks commuters would welcome this facility.  I have written to the Chief Executive of Southeastern, David Statham, to consider putting free wi-fi on our services.  It would be a welcome recompense for all the disruption being suffered as a result of the redevelopment at London Bridge station.”

British Heart Foundation – Sevenoaks

Staff and voluteers at British Heart Foundation - Sevenoaks
Staff and volunteers at British Heart Foundation – Sevenoaks

Michael met staff and volunteers at the High Street shop today.  Here are a few of British Heart Foundation’s  interesting statistics for their base in Sevenoaks:

  • The shop is run by 3 paid staff and over 30 volunteers, one of whom originally started as a volunteer
  • Between 700 – 800 donation bags are brought in to the shop per week
  • Up to 2,000 van packs are posted out each week
  • Between 5 -10 collections are made each week
  • 3 – 10 Gift Aid donors are signed up each week providing £140 – £150 of extra funds for the shop
  • Average sales per week amount to £4,500
  • The shop made £97,000 profit last year and they have already raised £83,000 this year.

Around the south-east BHF – Sevenoaks has helped to fund

  • 108 healthcare professionals
  • 1,783 defibrillators
  • 24 diagnostic equipment awards
  • 1 Hearty Lives projects
  • 128 Heartstart schemes
  • 36 heart support groups