Michael has officially launched Sevenoaks District Council’s new Super-HERO service in a ceremony at the Housing Forum.
The Sevenoaks District Council’s current Housing, Energy and Retraining Options (HERO) service has received national recognition for its work. According to the Council, its HERO service has helped thousands of people with issues relating to housing, debt, mortgage and further education and employment options.
Super-HERO extends the decade-old HERO service to offer a more holistic approach to providing support. It will help people to live independently in their own homes, offering small home adaptations such as grab-rails and stair lifts to more technologically-based devices such as remote health monitors.
HERO officers will now work closely with GPs and provide relief such as a maternity package covering benefits, housing and debt service to vulnerable parents and people fleeing domestic violence.
Michael awarded the Council’s HERO officers with certificates as a mark of their achievement.
He said: ‘I’m pleased that HERO has evolved into a service that will now look beyond just housing, with health at its core. I refer hundreds of my constituents to Sevenoaks District Council services every year, and I see at first-hand the commitment and professionalism of its officers.’
Michael has welcomed the Government’s decision to provide over one and a half million pounds for the redevelopment of Fort Halstead.
The announcement came as the Government allocated £102 million of Local Growth Deal funding for nineteen projects in the South East.
The £1.53 million for Fort Halstead will enable the building of 450 homes, a hotel, a new village centre and a business park with 1,100 high-tech jobs, making it Sevenoaks’ largest new employment site.
Michael said: “This is excellent news for Sevenoaks. Redeveloping Fort Halstead is a key local priority. This funding will kickstart the process, delivering the new housing and jobs we need in the area.”
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.
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 welcomed new figures showing that 60 people have started their own business after being helped off benefits in his Sevenoaks constituency, with the support of the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance.
Since its introduction in April 2011, the allowance has helped 73,000 people on out of work benefits across the country to set up their own businesses. Individuals are supported by a business mentor and receive 26 weeks of financial support.
Michael said: “It is excellent news that so many people in my constituency have not only left a life on benefits, but have also started to make such a positive contribution to our economic success. This is the latest example of the Government supporting those who want to work. I wish all those who have been helped by the New Enterprise Allowance every success.”
Record levels of employment in Swanley were welcomed by Michael as he hosted his second Jobs Fair in the area.
Unemployment has fallen by 50% since the last General Election; 413 people were unemployed in Swanley at that time. Today that figure is 203.
“It is very encouraging news that more people in Swanley now have the security of a regular wage packet. But there is more to do and 203 people still unemployed is still too high and that is why I was delighted to be able to host another Jobs Fair in Swanley this year.
“Thanks go to all the companies and organisations that provided sponsorship, support and participation. I am also grateful to Swanley Town Council for its generous support.”
Michael Fallon has welcomed new figures showing that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Sevenoaks has fallen by 260 over the last year, with employment up overall in the south-east by 222,000 since 2010
Since the General Election in May 2010 the number of people on unemployment benefit has fallen by 426.
Michael said: “It’s great news that there are now 260 fewer people on JSA in Sevenoaks and Swanley than there were last year. That’s 260 people no longer needing benefits to get by, with a more secure, brighter future ahead of them.
“With the economy now recovering from the Great Recession, and businesses creating jobs, it’s clear the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan is working. We need to keep to the plan, which is delivering growth and jobs, so that more people in Sevenoaks who want to work hard and get on can have the security of a regular pay packet which they can bring home to their families.”