Michael met with local business leaders ahead of the spring Budget to discuss how the Government was helping them reach their full potential.
During the meeting Michael confirmed that Sevenoaks was leading the way; the number of businesses in the area had increased by 1.3% in 2013, compared to 0.6% in the South East region and 0.8% across the UK.
He reinforced the fact that more help was on the way from Government, with every single business set to benefit from the new Employment Allowance which will give them a £2,000 tax cut from their National Insurance this April. The reduction in small companies tax to 20 per cent and the doubling of small business rate relief will give businesses in Sevenoaks the right environment to continue to grow as our economic recovery accelerates.
Allocations to the Business Support Scheme where made today, with Sevenoaks District Council allocated £172,500. Businesses that have been significantly affected by the recent flooding can apply to this fund to claim for loss of trade due top being closed, damaged stock and high-clean-up costs.
This allocation represents the first tranche of funding from the £10 million Business Support Scheme announced by the Prime Minister this week.
Michael visited the new fire station in Ash this morning and met many of the crew who live or work within a 4-minute response time to the base.
This is an on-call station with a single fire engine. On-call fire stations operate by calling firefighters in when needed to pick up the engine and attend an incident. When this happens everyone does their utmost to ensure there is as little disturbance as possible e.g. engines would generally not use their sirens as they leave the station.
Many of the firefighters that Michael met had been helping those in the area who had been affected by the recent floods in recent weeks.
As part of the Government’s ongoing work to deal with the floods, the Prime Minister has this week set out further support for businesses in areas affected by flooding.
The following help is available:
• A new Business Support Scheme worth up to £10million to provide hardship funding for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. Eligible businesses will be able to claim for funding for things like immediate clean-up costs, materials, and exceptional costs to help them continue trading;
• All affected businesses will get 100 per cent business rate relief for 3 months and will also get an extra 3 months to pay the business taxes they owe to HMRC as they get back on their feet;
• A £5,000 “repair and renew” grant for all affected homeowners and businesses – this will top up any money received from insurers to ensure flood resilience is built into homes and businesses as they are repaired;
• A £10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields to help restore it to farmable land as quickly as possible;
• Extra time for businesses to file accounts without any penalties. If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension and not collect the penalties which apply for late filings;
• A Government Business Support Helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. The Helpline will offer a free one hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now.
On Monday 17th February the Prime Minister David Cameron MP said:
“The Government is taking action across the board to deal with the clear-up and help hard-working people affected by the floods. Today I am announcing further support for businesses hit to help them get back on their feet. Dealing with these floods will be a long haul, requiring a stepped-up national effort with the whole country pulling together. We will continue to help the people who need help and protect the communities that need protecting.”
On Friday 31st January, Michael visited the new non-selective Christian Trinity School where he met pupils and answered questions about his role as MP for Sevenoaks and as Minister of State for Business and Energy.
Speaking about his visit, Mr Fallon noted: ‘It was a great pleasure to tour the school at its initial site in Riverhead and meet the pupils. They asked me some very challenging questions! I was very impressed at what Matthew Tate and his team have achieved already and look forward to seeing the school grow and develop in the coming years. I am delighted that the Government’s Free Schools policy is bringing added choice to the educational landscape in Sevenoaks. ’
Matthew Tate, Headmaster, commented: ‘The students really enjoyed meeting Mr Fallon. We were very glad to be able to thank him in person for the role he played in helping us to be selected as one of the Free Schools to be funded by the Government.’
The Prime Minister announced today that he has asked Michael to take on a new additional role with responsibility for coordinating the Government’s efforts to support the future of the maritime industry in Portsmouth and the livelihoods of the people who work there. This comes on top of the government’s recent support for Portsmouth (and Southampton) in the recent City Deal, announced 12 November 2013. The deal will provide £953 million of investment to create more than 17,000 jobs.
Discussing his appointment Michael said: “Portsmouth has a proud history and I’m confident that it has a strong maritime future and can emerge stronger from the decision taken by BAE. City leaders, unions, BAE Systems, other interested parties and the government are all going to have to work together and pull in the same direction for new jobs and growth. I will be championing Portsmouth at the heart of government and banging the drum for this great city at every opportunity.”
The Department for Education has turned down the most recent bid for a new grammar school in Sevenoaks.
Commenting on this decision Michael said:
“This decision is bitterly disappointing and does nothing to address the pressing need for more grammar school places in Sevenoaks. The ruling means that any new Sevenoaks annexe must be the same as the sponsor school. Only a girl’s school would be allowed while Weald of Kent remains single-sex; a co-ed school would only be possible if Weald of Kent itself becomes co-ed by the time a new one opens. We will have to rethink but our campaign goes on.”
Michael visited several small businesses around the town to hear first-hand about how they are doing at present. Feedback from those he met highlighted three common concerns: business rates, parking restrictions and broadband speeds.
Michael, together with Jane Hunter of the Westerham Town Partnership and Cllr Helen Ogden, Parish Council started the morning at Westerham Parish Church where they met members of the National Youth Ballet, run by local resident Jill Fone, who were rehearsing The Nativity for a performance later that day amid a Festival of Christmas Trees (in aid of St Mary’s Heritage Trust). He then went on to meet Jan of Annie’s Attic who was holding a Christmas craft workshop in Westerham Hall in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
By now the group had grown to include Cllr Roderick Hogarth (Chairman of Economic & Community Development Advisory Committee) and Cllr Kevin Maskell from Sevenoaks District Council and together they all visited The Light Brigade (Lighting) and the Beauty Spot in Horton’s Way. Afterwards they crossed London Road to meet the new owner of The White House Gallery (Picture Framing) and then moved up the hill to call on Nigel, the owner of MooreEnergy Fitness Club. From there they walked to the High Street and visited Ashton Taylor Smith (Antiques) and then crossed the road to Flawless Jewellery who design and make their own individual pieces and provide expert advice for remodelling.
The last two calls of the day were to LA Larratt (Butcher) and then a very welcome cup of coffee at The Courtyard, (‘much more than a coffee shop’) which also provides outside catering.
Thank you to Jane and Helen for organising such a brilliant tour.
Many more pictures from this visit to Westerham can be found in the gallery.
Many congratulations to the residents of Godden Green, Underriver, Bitchet Green, Stone Street and Wildernesse in the Sevenoaks constituency and to those of Ivy Hatch and Shipbourne who live in the Tonbridge & Malling constituency.
Gigaclear’s order threshold in this area has now been reached and plans are under way to install an ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises broadband service throughout the community. Construction is due to start in early 2014 and to take 12-14 weeks to complete.
The community representatives in this area have worked so hard over the last year to bring this project to their villages – again many congratulations – it has been a considerable effort.
BT’s planned improvements for other areas in the constituency have now been published. There are several rural areas where broadband speeds are currently very slow and and little prospect for significant improvement to the quality of service in the near future, so I am pressing KCC and SDC to assist with a search for other solutions for all these villages as soon as possible.
On Thursday 8th November, the owners of Swanley Shopping Centre suddenly imposed parking charges without warning. These car parks are privately owned and lie between the two Swanley medical surgeries. This move has caused great concern; blue badge holders are not exempt and the free ASDA car parks are suffering even greater congestion.
Opposing the new charges, Mr Fallon said:-
“A large number of constituents have complained to me and I was in Swanley on Saturday, 9 November to discuss this matter. Although these car parks are not owned or under the control of the local authorities (either Swanley Town Council or Sevenoaks District Council) I spoke to the Mayor and other Councillors and I know they are actively checking the legal position.
In the meantime, I want the landlords to hold off on the new charges to allow for a fuller consultation.”