The positive approach taken by local and national Government and the
business community since the announcement last week that Pfizer will
be leaving Sandwich can give us some hope for the future and could
also be a model for working together.
When I received a phone call on Tuesday morning last week from Richard
Blackburn the Managing Director Pfizer in the UK, my main concern was
about the impact on the local economy. Many people who are amongst the
2,300 work force at Sandwich live in our area and their employment has
a positive impact on other local businesses. Pfizer also played an
important role in the East Kent economy as a source of well paid and
high skilled jobs.
With immediate effect from Tuesday last week a Taskforce was
established by the Government under the direction of Kent’s leader
Paul Carter, to co-ordinate local efforts and approach organisations
interested in taking over parts of the Pfizer site. These
organisations could include businesses and universities looking for
new research facilities. The future for Sandwich could be as a diverse
commercial centre and scientific research base. The following day I
joined a meeting with Paul Carter, my fellow East Kent MPs, the
leaders of Thanet and Dover District councils, the Business Secretary
Vince Cable and Science Minister David Willets. David Willets will be
the lead member of the Government to work with the Taskforce and has
visited Sandwich this week. It is clear that there are already a
number of expressions of interest in Pfizer’s Sandwich plant and I
hope that there will be some positive news soon. I was also pleased to
hear that Saga is in a position to offer a number of jobs to some of
the Pfizer workers.
In East Kent we need a good mix of employers who can create a large
number of high skilled jobs and the announcement of Pfizer’s departure
makes the case for a new power station at Dungeness even stronger.
Last week I wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to consider the
positive impact that new jobs at Dungeness would have across the area
and how welcome news this would be at this time.
But there is good news of jobs and investment locally from some of our
larger employers and on Friday I met with Andy Routley and his team at
Church and Dwight in Folkestone. Their business makes and supplies
health and beauty products, including Arm and Hammer toothpaste, to
the rest of the country and exports to Europe and the Middle East.
They employ 400 people in Folkestone and have plans for further
investment here. Following this I held my regular business surgery at
the Channel Chamber of Commerce offices in Folkestone and discussed
the role of Business Link in the South East; a new community business
focusing on art, music and sport; and an idea related to next year’s
Olympic Games in London. We certainly have no shortage of innovative
thinking and entrepreneurships in our community