Michael recently opened the new head office of major construction firm FM Conway.
Conway, which was founded in 1961, has moved its operations and 250 staff to Sevenoaks from Dartford. The company works across the South East, including Olympic and Diamond Jubilee Projects as well as the Barclays’ Cycle Superhighway in London. The new office is the result of a complete refurbishment, with state-of-the-art office facilities and a fresh exterior.
In his speech, Michael welcomed the company and its staff to Sevenoaks. He announced that unemployment in his constituency has fallen to its lowest ever recorded level and said that he was proud that jobs like those provided by Conway mean that Sevenoaks is a bustling and vibrant centre of employment.
Michael has been in contact with Sevenoaks Town Council about the travellers who arrived at Brittains Lane Common earlier this week.
The Town Council are landowners of this registered common land and are therefore responsible for leading the proceedings for removal of trespassers. The Council has commenced these legal proceedings today.
Michael has welcomed new figures showing unemployment in Sevenoaks has fallen to its lowest recorded level.
Figures released today show that the total number of claimants in June was just 404, equivalent to 0.9 percent of the population.
Unemployment in Sevenoaks is now 10 percent lower than at the general election last year and over 60 percent lower than in May 2010.
Youth unemployment also fell to 65, almost 20 percent down on May last year and over 75 percent lower than it was in 2010.
Michael said: “This is great news. More people in Sevenoaks than ever before now have the security of a pay packet and the ability to provide for their families. There is always more to do but this news shows Sevenoaks is prepared for the economic challenges ahead.”
On Thursday, Michael addressed the annual Sevenoaks Chamber of Commerce summer reception. As Patron of the Chamber, Michael spoke about the impact of the EU referendum result for small businesses and the important role of the Chamber in the local economy:
Thank you Colonel.
It’s a pleasure to join you all tonight in this, the busiest week in politics since last week.
Every MP will tell you that they represent the best constituency in the country.
But clearly they’ve never been to Sevenoaks.
All of you here tonight, coupled with these beautiful surroundings, make that clearer than ever.
I always like to remind people that it is small and medium-sized businesses like some of those represented here tonight which make up 99 percent of the total in Britain.
In Sevenoaks, there are now 600 more businesses than there were six years ago.
Employing more people, producing more goods, selling more services.
That’s the equivalent of a new business being set up every three days.
So despite that success, or perhaps because of it, I know some of you are concerned about the result of the referendum on our EU membership and our current economic instability.
I would like to reassure you that our new Government, led by a new Prime Minister, is already working hard to restore the confidence and certainty that we need.
We are well prepared for the period of adjustment that lies ahead.
We will do whatever it takes to protect our economy.speech
We will forge new arrangements and trade deals.
We will make it work.
As we leave the EU, there will be lots of changes.
It will not be easy to negotiate a deal with the EU that controls immigration and recovers sovereignty while protecting our hard won economic growth.
But what will not change is the ingenuity, commitment and hard work of businesses like yours all around the country, but most of all here in Sevenoaks.
That’s always been valuable and I think its value will become even clearer in the coming years.
But the importance of your contribution demonstrates why the work of our Chamber of Commerce is so important.
I am always impressed by the range of the services and events that are on offer.
I am reliably informed that the new networking meetings are proving to be successful, as well as your recent charity golf day, your newsletter and the Curry Club.
It is with opportunities like these that our local economy can go from strength to strength. I encourage you all to make full use of them.
Finally, I would like congratulate the Chamber of Commerce on its achievements over the past year, and wish you all the very best of luck.
It’s now a pleasure to introduce Marc Vernet, headline sponsor of tonight’s event and owner of that stalwart of Sevenoaks for the past 25 years, Amherst Accountancy.
Michael has welcomed the announcement that the Government will introduce a new legal right to a fast broadband connection.
In the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty stated: ‘Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.’
The news is a boost to Michael’s ongoing campaign to secure improvements to broadband for homes and businesses throughout his constituency. Michael has already met representatives from BT and is continuing to press for assurances about the progress of the superfast rollout programme.
Michael said: “I am delighted by this new commitment. Sevenoaks needs better broadband, now and for years to come. This new universal obligation will mean that no home or business is left behind. I will continue to fight for my constituents to ensure it is implemented as soon as possible.”
Michael has welcomed the decision by Weald of Kent Grammar School not to exclude parts of his constituency from its 2017 admissions policy.
The announcement made last night means that areas such as Westerham, Crockham Hill and Brasted will all now be included in ‘Category A’ of the Oversubscription Criteria. The proposed changes, which were due to come into force in time for the opening of the new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, would have led to pupils from these areas having a lower chance of admission to the school. The school will next consult for the 2018 Admission Policy.
Michael raised his concerns with the school as part of the recent consultation process. He said: “This is the right decision by Weald of Kent. It is vital that the places at our new annexe go to local pupils. My constituents across Sevenoaks will now have access to a grammar school education for their children, regardless of where they live.”
Last May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.
Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents. I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf. My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week. I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.
I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley. From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.
Supporting our local schools
I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency. Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.
Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP. This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils. My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.
Getting a better deal for commuters
Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen
gers. Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it. I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation. Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential. I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.
Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election. Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.
Fighting for our NHS services
I am committed to our local NHS. We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer. That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.
Protecting GP services is also important. There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented. The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.
Boosting our local economy
In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong. Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses. I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days. Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.
But there is still more to do to support our local economy. Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me. I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT. We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.
Michael has announced that he is ‘reassured’ after a recent visit to Sevenoaks Hospital.
His visit came following recent changes to the outpatient services offered by Sevenoaks Hospital.
Following significant local concern, Michael secured assurances from West Kent CCG and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, that Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust would take over the clinics previously offered by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael was met at the hospital by David Griffiths, Chairman of Kent Community Health, Paul Bentley, Chief Executive, matron Rachel Nicholls and other representatives. They showed him the hospital’s wards and the Minor Injuries Unit, before accompanying him to Darent House, the former site of the Knole Centre. Mr Griffiths and Mr Bentley then briefed Michael on the latest developments at the hospital.
Michael said: “There has been some concern in Sevenoaks about the future of our hospital. Having visited, I am reassured that it will retain its vital role in our local NHS, taking pressure off acute hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley. We need more local NHS care, not less, and I will continue to press for even more services to deliver the healthcare we need at Sevenoaks Hospital.”
On Friday, Michael opened The Vales, a new affordable housing development near Bat & Ball Station in Sevenoaks.
The development is owned by Moat Homes, which has worked in collaboration with SDC to build 11 new properties. The properties are a mixture of shared ownership and affordable rent homes.
Michael spoke to the assembled guests, which included representatives from SDC and Moat and several of the new residents. He congratulated Moat on the development, which is built on the site of the former ambulance station, before joining guests for a tour of the new properties.
Michael said: “I was delighted to open The Vales. We need more housing in Sevenoaks but we also want to protect our environment and the Green Belt. This innovative scheme is an example of how collaboration between councils and developers is reinforcing the bottom rung of the housing ladder, helping young families to work towards owning their own home.”
Last Friday, Michael spent a busy day in Sevenoaks and Swanley. He visited Amherst School in the morning, answering pupils’ questions in a special assembly, before meeting local councillors in Swanley.
In the afternoon, he joined residents and staff of Gloucester House Nursing Home in Sevenoaks to celebrate its 25th anniversary celebrations.
Speaking about the visit, Michael said: “I was very pleased to help the staff and residents of Gloucester House to celebrate this anniversary. Speaking to the residents, it was clear that they have happy, fulfilled lives at the home thanks to its hardworking staff. That local, tailored approach is vital and we need to replicate it as much as possible.”
After speaking to residents, he travelled to Prime Place in the heart of Sevenoaks, where he joined the Mayor of Sevenoaks, Cllr Stephen Arnold, to open the new sales and marketing suite. Commenting on the opening, Michael said: “I first visited Prime Place, Sevenoaks last year, when it was little more than a building site. It’s a pleasure to see how much progress has been made and I look forward to seeing the completed development next year.”