On Friday, Michael addressed the annual Sevenoaks Business Awards. As Patron of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership, which organised the evening, Michael spoke about the achievements of local businesses and the support offered by the Government:
I was speaking in Paris earlier this week when, about halfway through, the lights went out.
I was assured that it was completely unintentional, but perhaps I was on thin ice after referring to our position on the Olympic medal table…
I certainly hope it won’t happen tonight.
It is an honour to be here once again as Patron of Sevenoaks Town Partnership.
I am delighted to see that there have been so many nominations for the awards this evening.
And I am proud to be able to support the Town Partnership.
Every year, its remarkable programme of events and support somehow expands.
From the Vintage Bus promoting tourism, to the monthly Farmers Market making the most of our local produce, the Partnership’s efforts have helped to make Sevenoaks more bustling and attractive than ever before.
But its excellent work builds on an already excellent foundation of local businesses.
In April, I had the pleasure of opening the fifth annual Business Show.
With over thirty businesses attending, it was a clear demonstration of the strength of our vibrant local economy.
I am very pleased to see that in evidence here again tonight.
And it’s vital – Sevenoaks is not only a commuter town.
It is full of thriving, innovative businesses providing local employment – like yours.
Many of you are part of the 99 percent of businesses in Britain that are small- or medium-sized.
But I also recently welcomed a much larger company, FM Conway, to our town.
They may be a very different business to many of yours, but their decision to relocate here shows how successful our local economy has become.
The number of people without a job here has fallen to its lowest ever recorded level.
And we now have the highest number of businesses on record, 600 more than there were six years ago.
That’s the equivalent of a new business being set up every three days.
As your MP I am proud to be supporting measures to maintain this impressive record.
From April, we are cutting business rates.
600,000 businesses occupying a third of all properties will pay no rates at all.
We want to see three million apprenticeships across the country by 2020.
So many local businesses are helping to create these vital opportunities and I am pleased to see that there is strong competition for the apprentice award tonight – clear evidence of the young talent that is coming through our local workforce.
Corporation tax will also continue to fall, giving you more money to invest in your businesses.
There are challenges ahead.
I know some of you may be concerned.
I won’t pretend that the next few years will be easy.
But Sevenoaks is well prepared.
And with new measures to support the economy, the ingenuity of our businesses, and the ceaseless support of the Town Partnership, I am sure our local economy will continue to thrive.
I would like to congratulate tonight’s nominees and winners on their much-deserved achievements and wish you all the very best of luck for the coming year.