Sevenoaks Business Show Awards 2017

Michael said wider society could learn from the values of small businesses in his address at the annual Sevenoaks Business Show Awards on Friday.

‘I support small businesses because they embody freedom and independence, individual responsibility and the principles of Meritocracy’, Michael said to an audience of local businesses.

‘In small businesses, you have a real stake in its success and the rewards gained are directly related to the effort that is invested.

Wider society has a lot to learn from small businesses.’

As Patron of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership, which organised the event, Michael spoke about the local economy, the achievements of local businesses and the support provided to small businesses by the Government.

He also highlighted the historic low unemployment levels and increasing number of enterprise startups in the constituency.

The full transcript of Michael’s speech can be found below.

 

 

Celebrating Local Enterprise                        15th September

[Introduction]

I am delighted to be here again at this great event as the Patron of Sevenoaks Town Partnership and to see so many businesses up for awards.

 

[Local successes]

Business is thriving in Sevenoaks in spite of the challenges we face.

Once again, I am delighted as your Member of Parliament to look back on a strong year for the town.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Sevenoaks Town Partnership,

Which is comprised of businesses and retailers,

Chamber of Commerce, Sevenoaks Town Council,

And the Sevenoaks Chronicle.

They play a crucial role in supporting local enterprise,

And we have seen the fruits of their hard work ripen.

Local businesses are continuing to grow,

Punching above their weight not only here in the UK…

But also selling across the world.

Were you aware, for example, of a business that develops off-grid renewable energy in rural Africa,

Based here in Sevenoaks?

Or of a business that stocks the House of Commons with its famous single-malt Scotch,

Whilst exporting vodka to Poland, gin to Europe, and Kosher whisky Israel,

Based here in Sevenoaks?

Children in Africa, who may know nothing about our country, nor understand our language, will know of Sevenoaks.

Many of the world’s leading figures, who purchase Parliament’s whisky as a souvenir for their friends and family back home, will know of Sevenoaks.

Our town continues to be the home of some of the most innovative and unique businesses in the country,

Most of them working out of small cabinets on our buzzing business parks.

Indeed, over 700 new enterprises have set their sights on success in Sevenoaks since 2010…

100 in the last two years…

That’s more than one business startup every week.

As more businesses begin and more enterprises expand,

There are more and more jobs to fill.

Local unemployment remains at a record low.

This puts the constituency in the top 50 out of 650 in the country.

That is something to be hugely proud of.

But it’s also something we can still work hard to improve.

Young people here now have a real choice when they finish their education.

With local business thriving, they can choose to work here,

Or, with connections to London improving, they can choose to work elsewhere.

Because Sevenoaks is not just a commuter town.

It is the birthplace of innovative businesses providing local employment, like yours.

 

[Government support]

Our successes locally can be attributed to the hard work and talent of local businesses and partnerships.

But our successes locally are not surprising when one considers the following:

The UK is already the fifth largest economy in the world, the biggest recipient of foreign investment in Europe, and the fastest growing economy in the G7.

I recognise that it is because of this success,

Both locally and nationally,

That many of you may be concerned about leaving the European Union.

As a businessman myself, I understand the pressures we face from uncertainty.

Rest assured, the Government’s top priority is securing the future of our businesses;

Especially the small and medium-sized businesses, like yours, that constitute 99 per cent of businesses in the UK.

Because this Government believes in small business.

With firms comprised of fewer than 200 employees responsible for around two fifths of our national income;

Employing 80 per cent of the total workforce;

And creating nearly half of all private sector turnover in the UK,

You are indispensable to the creation of jobs and of wealth.

I will do my part to champion businesses in Parliament,

Supporting the Government’s cut to business rates and corporation tax,

And our determination to regulate more efficiently.

But more needs to be done to cut red tape and ensure small businesses can export more easily.

I will also work to ensure that local enterprises have access to the funding and resources they need.

 

[Conclusion]

I support small businesses because they embody freedom and independence,

Individual responsibility;

And the principles of Meritocracy.

In small businesses, you have a real stake in its success,

And the rewards gained are directly related to the effort that is invested.

Wider society has a lot to learn from small businesses.

So I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all of you,

As well as offer my congratulations to those nominated:

For supporting our robust local economy,

For providing jobs for the next generation,

And for making Sevenoaks the best place for families anywhere in the country.

Thank you.

Michael Time Travels for 100th Anniversary

Michael visited the Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in Chipstead last week to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of its founder’s birth.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is a major health and welfare charity working in the UK and around the world. It was founded in 1948 by RAF pilot Leonard Cheshire and works to move disabled individuals toward independent living.

Michael met Kevin Parkes, Service Manager, and Deputy Managers, Anne-Marie Pert and Shelley Conneely, who introduced him to the care home’s oldest resident. Staff were dressed in early 20th century attire in honour of the centenary and there were tea-dancers performing to live music.

‘This is a great example of what can be achieved through community effort’, Michael said. ‘The charity’s projects support the Government’s wider efforts to get more disabled people into employment. Together we will work to finally close the disability gap.’

Fallon Fielded for 3G Pitch Opening

On Saturday, Michael officially opened the new 3G Football Pitch for Sevenoaks Town Football Club at Greatness Recreation Ground.

At the well-attended event, Michael congratulated the club Chairman, Paul Lansdale, the staff and players, the Council and the sponsors. He then helped cut the ribbon with the Mayor and some of the players.

The innovative new pitch was recommended by Sevenoaks Town Council as part of their Sevenoaks Sports Strategy and costs £400,000. The funding was achieved through a £70,000 grant from Cory Environmental Trust Britain, a £130,000 donation from The Sevenoaks Fund and a £200,000 donation from the Town Council. The new floodlit pitch will be used by Sevenoaks Town FC’s 60 teams and local primary schools free of charge.

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Michael said: ‘This is the result of a real community effort and will be used by local schools as well as Sevenoaks Town FC. A symbol of diversity, opportunity and the strong community spirit here in Sevenoaks, this pitch is an important addition to our area and helps put our teams onto the front foot.’

Aiming for 100%

Michael has welcomed new figures released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that show current superfast coverage in the Sevenoaks constituency is over 92 per cent.

The Government funded BDUK programme has made superfast broadband available to 13,112 homes and businesses, and it estimates that 95 per cent of the constituency will have superfast coverage by the end of the year.

The Government is also introducing a Broadband Universal Service Obligation to give consumers the right to request fast, affordable broadband wherever they live and work.

This will mean that by 2022, everyone can request a connection of at least 10Mbps, which is around half the speed of superfast, but still quick enough to download a half-hour TV show in two minutes.  Currently, less than 3 per cent of premises in the Sevenoaks constituency receive below 10Mbps.

The availability of superfast broadband services for specific homes and businesses can be checked at http://gosuperfastchecker.culture.gov.uk/.

Michael said: ‘It’s good news that much of the constituency is already covered by superfast broadband.  But I won’t rest until we get 100 per cent coverage.  I will continue to work hard with ministers, BT and KCC to ensure constituents and businesses are getting the speeds they need.’

Michael Delighted with Charity’s Progress

 

Michael has expressed his delight at the progress the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) has made in the past year.  As the charity’s President, Michael recently met with the Chief Executive, Dr. Tom Pey, to discuss future projects.

In January 2017, the Royal Society for Blind Children and Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB), which was based in Sevenoaks, merged to create RSBC.  The new charity has the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen and employs 100 people.

At the meeting, Dr. Pey informed Michael that, by 2020, he hopes the charity will have helped 11,000 blind and partially sighted children and young people in England and Wales.  The charity recorded an annual turnover of around £3.7 million.

Dr. Pey and Michael reviewed the recent success of RSBC’s new social innovation organisation, Wayfindr, which aims to improve independent travel for vision-impaired people.  The new indoor-navigation programme, which was successfully tested on London Underground, is going global and has attracted the support from organisations such as Google.

Michael said: ‘With income up, more innovation, and ambition sky-high, it’s great to know such a vital charity is doing so well.  I am proud to be part of RSBC, which originated here in Sevenoaks, and commend Tom for all his hard work.’

August Rail Closures: ‘Work Out Your Plan B’

Michael has warned constituents of line closures on rail networks to London over the bank holiday next week and has encouraged them to ‘work out [their] Plan B’.

From 26 August to 2 September, there will be no Southeastern services at London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross.  This means there will be fewer trains into London and they may be diverted to different London stations.

The disruption will be caused by improvement work at London Bridge station and track upgrades, which is designed to improve station space, reduce future delays, improve connections, and facilitate more frequent journeys.

To assist passengers, the Thameslink Programme communications team has developed a campaign microsite, which details station by station the planned changes during the blockade, what this means for passenger journeys, detailed travel advice and customer information resources.  The site is accessible via the following link: http://www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk/2017-disruption.

In a post on his new Facebook page, Michael Fallon said: ‘These closures hit at a time when people are already back from holiday.  So whether it’s changing the time you travel, finding another route, cycling to work, or working from home, you will need to work out your Plan B.  I encourage everyone to visit the Thameslink Programme microsite and start thinking ahead.’

COLUMN – Getting our Railways Right

It’s the summer of consultations.  The Department for Transport, Network Rail, Thameslink and Southeastern have all launched their plans for 2018.  I’ve responded to all four.  I hope to respond to many more in the future, because getting our railways right is important; especially now, before our young people start new jobs in the City, before school starts up again, and before families return to work.

In March, I made the case for passengers in Sevenoaks and Swanley to the Government consultation on the new South Eastern franchise.  It was a great opportunity to argue for more space on trains, improved compensation arrangements, an Oyster-style network, and an end to the unacceptably poor service many of us have endured for far too long.  This was accompanied by a lengthy letter I handed personally to the Transport Secretary, demonstrating to him my determination to ensure that passengers are finally put first.

I also helped draft a joint letter to the Rail Minister, which was signed by twelve other Kent MPs, calling for a major rethink of our rail strategy in the South East.  The more pressure we put on those in charge, the more likely we are to get results.

The Kent Route Study is not up to scratch.  Network Rail must consider further solutions beyond those mentioned in the draft in order to meet the projected population proliferation.  It’s crucial that our railways have the capacity to meet the increasing demand.  I responded to the consultation in June and have requested a meeting with Network Rail to discuss the proposals in more detail.

Whilst Southeastern’s 2018 timetable proposals are underwhelming, Thameslink’s new 2018 timetable proposals are more promising.  With plans to double the number of trains every hour from Swanley and introduce faster routes from Sevenoaks, it seems Thameslink are finally listening.

That’s why these consultations are important and that’s why I’ve taken considerable time to research and respond to them.  Now we need to ensure that the very best of the plans are delivered.

New Rail Timetable Underwhelming

Michael has said that he is ‘underwhelmed’ by the proposed Southeastern timetable effective May 2018.

The comment was included in Michael’s response to the Southeastern May 2018 Timetable Consultation, which sets out proposed changes to the timetable operated by Southeastern.  The consultation is one of a series of rail consultations that have been live over the summer period.

Among the proposed changes are plans to reduce the number of London destinations at peak times in order to ensure a simpler and more reliable service.  Whilst Michael supports the plan in principle, he warns that the redistribution of trains between Charing Cross, Blackfriars and Cannon Street must not come at the cost of lengthened journey times for passengers wishing to go to their original destination.

Michael said: ‘There are no major changes and the level of service will be broadly what it is today at a stage when a major rethink is required.  My constituents require faster, more regular and reliable train services.  Overall, I’m underwhelmed by Southeastern’s new proposals.’

Local Business Wins National Award

Michael has hailed local business Winch Energy a ‘great local exporter’ following its success at prestigious award event.

Winch Energy, a global, off-grid renewable energy developer based in Sevenoaks, has been awarded ‘Export Champion’ by Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.  It is among 29 other outstanding British businesses that have been selected for distinguished programmes.

The locally-based company, founded by CEO Nicholas Wrigley, provides electricity, electric water pumping and satellite connectivity to off-grid populations in Africa. It was founded in 2016.

Lord Marland (left) and Nicholas Wrigley, CEO of Winch Energy, with his certificate
Lord Marland (left) and Nicholas Wrigley, CEO of Winch Energy, with his certificate

Michael congratulates Mr Wrigley and Winch Energy employees on their impressive award.  He said: ‘This is yet another example of business booming in Sevenoaks.  Our local trades punch above their weight not only here in the UK, but also across the world.  I am committed to ensuring that this business and great local exporters like it can seize upon the opportunities presented by Brexit and expand their global successes.’

Michael Joins Call for ‘Major Rethink’ of Rail Services

Michael has signed a joint letter addressed to the Rail Minister, calling for a ‘major rethink’ of how rail services in London and the South East are operated.

‘Passengers are dissatisfied’, the letter reads, ‘[w]ith insufficient room to stand at times and with some season tickets at more than £6,000, they feel they are not getting value for money. […] It comes as very little surprise that very few customers have confidence in the operator being able to deliver the improvements that are needed.’

Sevenoaks and Swanley feature prominently in the letter, which is signed by 12 Kent MPs.  In particular, the MPs support Michael’s campaigns for the rollout of smarter Oyster-style ticketing systems at all stations in the constituency and for Delay Repay 15 to be introduced before 2018.

The joint letter follows the personal recommendations Michael made to the Secretary of State for Transport back in March, in which he called for the new South Eastern franchise to ‘put passengers first’.

Michael said: ‘Signing a joint letter demonstrates the huge number of people affected by poor rail services.  Two Cabinet Ministers have signed this letter, including myself.  Getting a better deal for rail passengers is a top priority for me locally, and I will ensure it remains a top priority for this Government.’

Read the letter here.