Swanley Business Expo

I was delighted to this week attend the Swanley Business Expo, a joint initiative between Swanley Town Council and Sevenoaks and District Chambers of Commerce to promote local businesses in the area.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy: they pump money into the local economy, creating jobs and community supply chains.

It was a real privilege to meet so many exciting small businesses in Swanley – a place far more than a commuter town. I look forward very much to hearing about their successes in the future.

 

Dr Dambisa Moyo

Michael with Dr Danbisa Moyo at the House of Commons
Michael with Dr Danbisa Moyo at the House of Commons

Michael had the pleasure of chairing a fascinating discussion from the economist and New York Times bestselling author, Dr Dambisa Moyo, recently in Parliament.

 The event, hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, saw Dr Moyo lay out her ideas on how to tackle the current global economic and political problems we face. Drawing on her latest book, The Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It, Dr Moyo outlined her 10-point plan, which argued that economic growth can only be achieved by overhauling liberal democracy.

 Sir Michael said: “It was an honour to chair this event and listen to the ideas presented by Dr Moyo. We should all be taking seriously her proposals – including politicians.”

‘Small Businesses Saturday’ in Swanley

Michael took the opportunity to celebrate local businesses over the weekend in aid of Small Business Saturday – a campaign to raise awareness of small businesses and their importance to the economy.

He visited a number of businesses in Swanley and Westerham, ranging from hairdressers to retailers.  Feedback from those he met highlighted the innovation and creativity small businesses require in order to thrive.

Michael started the day outside Michael inspecting the ETMS lorry with owner, MartinSwanley Town Council, where he met the owner of Exhibition Traffic Management Services, Martin.  The company hires and trains local young people and helps the council with voluntary projects such as litter-picking.

The local MP then walked through Swanley Shopping Centre, where he visited Rural Age Concern Darent Valley, an independent charity, and RAW Hair, a hairdressers.  It was the tale of two businesses with plenty of customers but one struggling with high rent.

Walking down the High Street, Michael was struck by the number of empty lots where businesses have left and moved up into the Shopping Centre. The owner of Towes Convenience Store, Darren, said business was slower due to the traffic and restricted parking in the area.  He hopes his Hermes parcel collection system will help bring in more customers, and his array of Eastern European foods and drinks will keep them coming back.

Lastly, the local MP visited K2 Flooring – a company Sir Michael was pleased to discover has existed since the 1960s under the same family ownership.

Later in the day, the MP visited businesses in Westerham during Late Night Shopping and watched the turning on of the Christmas lights.

Michael said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy.  We could all learn from small businesses: they work hard and invest their own money to employ other people.  As we approach Christmas, I encourage everyone to think ‘small’ and support our great local businesses.”

Fallon Calls for Fairer Economy

Michael called for a ‘fairer economy’ from the backbenches in the debate on the Autumn Budget yesterday.

The local MP welcomed a range of measures from the Chancellor, supporting longer-term and additional money for the NHS.

He called for further action in four specific areas:

First, he argued that the National Insurance threshold should be raised in line with the income tax one. He pointed out that some low paid workers are paying as much in NI contributions as they are income tax.

Second, he highlighted the need for companies like Amazon and Google to pay their share of rates and tax, asserting that Britain ‘shouldn’t have different economies for the big and the small.’

Third, he pointed out that when Margaret Thatcher left government in 1990, 11 million people owned shares. Today, however, only 8 million do. He called for tax breaks for companies that offer free shares to employees and for discounted shares to be offered to the public when the government’s stake in RBS is sold off.

Finally, the Sevenoaks MP advocated a more vigorous push from Government for exports, noting, ‘outside the Single Market, we’re going to live and die by what we sell’.

‘A fairer economy, much wider employee share ownership, exporting at the heart of every government industrial policy, these are some of the steps towards our new economic future’, Michael suggested.  ‘Muddling along, mere managerialism will not be enough.’

Concluding his speech, Michael added: ‘Brexit Britain requires a bigger vision, more confident, outward-looking, self-rewarding.  Let’s build on this Budget to enable Britain to be bolder still.’

Fallon Raises Glass to New Brewery

Michael has welcomed the new arrival of Westerham Brewery in Westerham at an official opening ceremony last week.

The return of the brewery to the town has been long-awaited but locals were finally able to explore the tap room and shop on Thursday (12).  The brewery uses locally-sourced malt, hops and hard water that is highly rated for the brewing of ales such as the IPA for which Westerham was once famous.

Robert Wicks, the brewery owner, invited Michael to say a few words to mark the special occasion following a tour of the site for over 100 people.

Michael and Robert both addressed the guests in the brewery.
Michael and Robert both addressed the guests in the brewery.

Westerham is renowned within military circles for having provided troops posted in Normandy during the Second World War with ales.  These ales were smuggled across the Channel in the empty auxiliary tanks of Spitfires from Biggin Hill.

‘I should think our servicemen and women aboard our new aircraft carriers would also appreciate being reminded of Westerham’s historic role in our military’, Michael joked.

Michael hopes the new development will increase the town’s tourism.  He said: ‘Having benefitted directly from the regional investment programme I set up as Business Minister back in 2014, Westerham Brewery will strengthen not only the rural economy but also the character of the town.’