Friday 28 January 2022
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic it is encouraging to see that the economy across the country has recovered much faster than many people predicted. The size of the economy is now greater than it was before the first lockdown two years ago. There are more people in work, job vacancies have risen to another high, and redundancies are at record lows. In comparison to the other leading industrialised nations, the UK is leading the recovery from the coronavirus and our Plan for Jobs is working.
On 21st January I held my eighth annual Jobs, Training and Apprenticeships Fair at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone, the first for two years, as a consequence of the pandemic. Over 40 local businesses and organisations attended, including Eurotunnel, Channels & Choices, Border Force, Veolia, Holiday Extras, and Home Instead. With more than 700 people visiting the fair, it was the best attended event we have organised to date. In the past few months, one of the biggest concerns raised with me by local businesses is the current difficulty in recruiting new members of staff, particularly in the care and hospitality sectors. It was good to see though that there are clearly many people who are out looking for their next job opportunity. A number of the organisations I spoke to at the fair had at that event, been able to meet people they believed would be suitable for positions they were looking to recruit for. I would like to thank everyone who attended and worked to make it such a success. I look forward to hosting my ninth jobs fair next year.
Last week I took part in a parliamentary debate on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), powered by nuclear energy to generate electricity. Given the excellent infrastructure and industry experience at Dungeness and across the Romney Marsh area, I promoted the location as an ideal site for SMRs. These are being developed by Rolls-Royce and I asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to give direction to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority so that they can begin to enter negotiations about the future of the sites under their management. Sites, for example, like Dungeness A. The Energy Minister, Greg Hands MP, has agreed to meet with me to discuss this and I hope that progress can be made in the coming months.
I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Paul Emden earlier this month. Paul was for many years a leading member of the Folkestone Harbour Ward resident’s association and was one of my fellow directors of the Step Short, First World War centenary project. As Finance Director of Step Short, Paul was central to the work to fundraise and deliver the memorial arch on The Leas, which was officially opened by Prince Harry on 4 August 2014. For this and all his work for the local community he was awarded the British Empire Medal. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Barbara, daughter Nikki and the whole family, in their loss.