Over the last few months we have seen further welcome falls in unemployment in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency, and the overall rate remains less that half of what it was during the last recession. This provided a positive context for my fifth annual jobs fair, which was held at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone last Tuesday. It was great to see so many leading local employers who were present at the fair, including Border Force, Eurotunnel, Swiss Re, Alcaline International Haulage Services, Saga and Port Lympne. We also had strong support from local colleges, like East Kent and Canterbury College, and there was information from local training providers about courses. It was also good to have the team from Shepway District Council who are working on the proposed Otterpool Garden Town development at the jobs fair, explaining the opportunities for this scheme to create large numbers of new jobs in the coming years. I hope that everyone who attended the fair was able to take something positive away from it, whether it was setting up a job interview, registering for a course, or just making a new contact who might be able to help them in the future. I’d be interested to hear of your experiences if you attended the Fair, as that helps us to prepare for next year’s event.
We had positive news last week regarding the future of the Leas Lift. Earlier in the year, I brought together the local councils, with the owners of the lift, the Radnor Estate, and the Folkestone Harbour Company, to discuss how we could try to bring the lift back into operation. There has been a considerable amount of work behind the scenes since then, led by the Radnor Estate, to create a new trust to oversee the operation of the lift, and to secure the initial finance needed to introduce the new breaking system that was required by the Health and Safety Executive. The lift should be open next year, and in the future I also hope that we could see both cars of the lift back up and running. There is also the potential to secure further funding for the lift through a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Leas Lift is an important part of the history of Folkestone, but with the seafront development scheme expected to start in the new year, it is also a vital piece of infrastructure linking the lower Leas to the centre of the town.
Last Tuesday I also met with Jo Saxton the Chief Executive of Turners Schools to discuss their work at the Folkestone Academy, and the plans for the new Turner Free School, secondary school, which will open in Cheriton in September 2018. Applications for places at the school are now open and you can find out more by visit their website www.turnerfreeschool.org