My motivation for getting involved in politics was to use the position of being Member of Parliament to work to help everyone have the chance to achieve what they want to in life. At the last general election four years ago, the greatest threat to the opportunities people wanted to pursue was the weak state of the economy and the relatively high levels of unemployment. Getting the economy back on track has been the top priority of the government, while mine has been supporting the development of local businesses and seeing more jobs created.
The latest figures on unemployment published last week showed that we are continuing to make strong progress. The number of people out of work in the Folkestone and Hythe area has fallen by 40% since 2010; this is the equivalent number of jobs created to operating an additional two nuclear power stations at Dungeness. The overall unemployment rate is now 3%, well below the national average, and it has also fallen below the rate of other communities in East Kent which were doing better than Folkestone and Hythe four years ago. So we are not just being lifted on a rising tide, welcome though that would be, this is a reflection of the hard work of local people and businesses who are creating more growth and opportunity in our economy.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a breakfast event organised by the Institute of Directors in Kent, at the newly refurbished ballroom in the Imperial Hotel in Hythe. It was great to hear so many businesses in our area talking about their investment plans. Local firms that received investment from the government's growth fund for East Kent are making this money work for them by improving their facilities and hiring new people. In the House of Commons last week I highlighted the success of the creative industries led regeneration of the old town in Folkestone, and the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey praised the work of the Creative Foundation in developing a cluster employing hundreds of people. You can see the Minister's comments here
We have to keep this momentum going, and there is much that we can look forward to. The Folkestone Harbour company is investing £4.5 million on regenerating the harbour arm, creating new jobs and opportunities for businesses. This new public space will be open in the new year. I hope we will soon see more progress on the seafront redevelopment plan as well. At Dungeness we are pushing for a ten year extension to the operating life of the power station and this should be confirmed by the end of this year. Work will also soon start on the new runway for Lydd Airport.
Finally, On 6th November I am holding a jobs fair at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone which is being supported by Shepway Council and the local Jobs Centre. Many businesses will be there to discuss job opportunities with them, including firms like Saga, Holiday Extras, Port Lympne and Wooding's in Hythe. There will also be information about training courses and support to find work that is available locally. You can find out more about the jobs fair on the website www.folkestonejobsfair.co.uk