Small businesses are the lifeblood of our nation. They are the job creators. We must do everything we can to support them – especially in places like Dover and Deal.
The truth is that too often Britain has worked for the big cities and big corporations – while firms in the regions get overlooked. People here in Dover and Deal know how hard we have to fight for every single penny of investment. As we leave the European Union, we need to build a nation that works better for our historic regions and districts. We need a Britain that works for places like Dover and Deal.
It's been a real battle – yet since 2010 we have been doing everything we can to bring more investment to our corner of Kent, to boost jobs and to help local business. And we really have come a long way. We've secured £400 million of investment in our area. The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has halved – and more than 4,000 apprenticeships have been created.
What's more, the number of new businesses opening in Dover and Deal has nearly doubled since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show 465 new businesses opened in Dover district last year, compared to 260 in 2010. And the numbers continue to grow, with a 17.7% rise in 2016 on the previous year. That's twice the UK average.
Meanwhile, 91% of these new businesses are still operating after at least a year, compared to 89.7% nationally. And the total number of active enterprises in Dover district is up 5.2% in the last year and 15% since 2010.
These numbers show the courage and hard work of the people of Dover and Deal in recent years. It takes real guts to set up a new business – with long hours and non-stop hard work essential to make it a success. People who take a risk and set up shop in our area need our full support.
I've been doing what I can to help. Earlier in the year I met with local business owners concerned by a rates revaluation in February. I took their views to Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Over the summer, the Department set up three new relief schemes for hundreds of businesses in Dover and Deal. And last month Dover District Council confirmed 374 businesses have benefitted so far, saving more than £200,000.
We've come a long way since 2010 – yet there is still much more to do. We need to ensure that the St James development helps bring money not just to the new shops and restaurants – but also to all the brilliant businesses already set up in town. We must ensure Deal continues to thrive and that firms across our corner of Kent get the support they need.
We must keep fighting to deliver the bright future we all want for Dover and Deal.
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