Michael 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.
The 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.”
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.’
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.
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.”
The entrepreneurial initiative ‘Young Start-up Talent’ has returned for a second year after its success last year in West Kent. The team have been conducting workshops and assemblies to local schools and colleges to inspire and encourage young entrepreneurs in the area to start up in business. The initiative has £50,000 prize fund worth of business products and services to entice them which is donated by the local business community.
Four made it through to work more closely with the team and who think that they have what it takes to take their business ideas to the next level.
Held at K-College in Tonbridge, the finalists were invited to a ‘121’ speed networking style session where the candidates were asked to present their businesses to the sponsors and judges. The candidates where questioned on their businesses by each judge and sponsor of the project, breaking their business plans down bit by bit to understand each aspect in more detail to further develop their business model.
The team was made up of professional businessmen and women in the local area and included Jo Ellis – Town & Country Housing Group, Paul Roe – Reeves Accountants, Roy Laming – Enterprise Foundation, Julie Askew – K-College, Katherine Parker – Bowles Learning Development, Chris Endersby – Grammar Printers, Chris Thomas – Let’s do business and Start-up Loans, Erica Dennett – Cripps Harries Hall along with Founders of the initiative Lorraine Nugent and Matt Turner. All who attended were very supportive offering each candidate advice and support on how to develop their business ideas.
One of the candidates – Karis Gill mentioned “I learnt so much throughout the evening and came away with invaluable knowledge to further develop my business plan in ways that hadn’t even occurred to me”.
Brian Cosham, aged 18 and a student currently studying hair and beauty at K-College has a new innovative hair and beauty concept called La Bella Vita, Karis Gill, just 18 and currently studying A levels at Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School believes she has spotted a gap in the market for innovative advertising, Karis has created a business called Katchspace.
Rajan Musha a local resident and currently studying at Christ Church Canterbury University is looking to produce an app where students can keep up to date with local events and get the best deals at restaurants and bars – the app is called the Student Life App.
Eden Tiltman, aged 19 who is an A level student at Hugh Christie Technology College in Tonbridge has a passion for the care industry whose business is called BALES – a specialist agency for care workers.
Each candidate gave an informal presentation to each of the judges and sponsors who then fed back with some useful tips on how they could each improve their business. All then received further guidance to help them further prepare and take their business to the next level in readiness for the more formal ‘Dragons Den’ style presentation that was filmed at K-College in May to decide who would take away the huge prize fund.
See Michael introduce the video of the Dragon’s Den presentations here.
Sevenoaks and Swanley MP Michael Fallon met residents of Archer Way, Swanley on Friday (6th June) to discuss the night time switch-off of street lighting. Cllr David Brazier and officials from Kent Highways also attended. Residents are concerned that darker streets could encourage crime. It was agreed the switch-off would be reviewed with the police at the end of six months to see whether crime had risen. Kent also agreed to reconsider their consultation procedures.
Speaking at Sevenoaks & District Chamber of Commerce Celebration of Business event at St Julian’s, Underriver on Thursday 5th June, local MP and business Minister Michael Fallon said: “Unemployment in Sevenoaks has fallen substantially since the last General Election. The number claiming Job Seekers Allowance has fallen from 1,074 in May 2010 to 675 in April 2014 – a drop of 37 per cent. There are now a record 4,720 businesses registered for VAT in the Sevenoaks area. Local firms have created 1,640 apprenticeships since the last election, over 500 of them last year. There are still challenges, and the government has announced new plans to improve lending to small firms and to help them win a bigger share of public sector contracts. But Sevenoaks business is on a roll.”
Michael officially visited refurbished Hextable Post Office, which is now open significantly longer opening hours for customers. The branch, at McColls Retail Group Ltd, 2 Home Hill, Hextable, Swanley, BR8 7RR is now a new local-style open-plan branch, which offers Post Office services from a till at the retail counter alongside retail transactions during shop opening hours.
Post Office customers now benefit from opening hours being increased to 107 hours a week as the new branch is open Monday to Saturday: 06:00–21:30; Sunday: 07:00-21:00. This offers customers an extra 56 hours of Post Office service every week, including all day Sunday. The branch also opens significantly earlier and closes much later every day.
Michael said: “The branch looks great. The open-plan counter makes it far easier for staff and customers to talk without the need to talk loudly. The opening hours really are impressive, which makes it far more convenient for people with busy lives to visit Hextable Post Office any day of the week.”
Post Office Senior Stakeholder Manager, Martine Munby, said: “We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in Hextable and we are confident this new modern Post Office service will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future. This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office and marks a commitment to no more branch closure programmes.”
Under the current Parliament the Government has committed £1.34bn for the Post Office network to make sure there is no programme of Post Office closures and to update branches; in November the Government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network, from 2015 to 2018.
Nationwide the investment programme will see up to 8,000 branches modernised with additional investment in over 3,000 community and outreach branches.
The Post Office, now independent of Royal Mail, is the largest retail network in the UK, with over 11,500 branches. It is also one of the fastest growing financial services companies and is developing its online and telephony services.
Michael will be one of the panellists on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? on Friday, 16th May from St Anselm’s School, Canterbury. Presented by Jonathan Dimbleby the others on the panel will be Sir Menzies Campbell MP, Patrick O Flynn and Sadiq Khan MP.