Local small businesses are the engine of enterprise and job creation in Britain and East Kent. 99% of local businesses are classed as 'small'. Small and medium businesses account for 6 in 10 of all business jobs. They have been the job creators over the past decade. Large corporations are important, but it's strong independent local businesses that are boosting jobs and money in our community.
Here in Dover and Deal we have many great local businesses. Last week, I visited Solley's Ice Cream in Ripple near Deal. This is a third generation family business. They began ice cream production 30 years ago and have since gone from strength to strength.
It's now the most successful independent ice cream maker in Kent and was recently a Gold Star winner at the prestigious Great Taste Awards. What's more, 85% of Solley's ingredients are sourced from Kent itself. That means more jobs and investment for local farmers and producers, helping to build on local success.
I also recently visited Cook Fabrications in Hawkinge. The firm specialises in high level manufacturing and design. Founded in 1979 by Eric Cook, the business now distributes the highest quality steel for construction all over the South East.
The business employs over 50 local people in highly-skilled metal work. It's a great example of a local business with a proud heritage helping to boost skills and training in our area.
I'm passionate about seeing small businesses to grow and helping local people start their own firm. There's been great progress. Since 2011, 110 unemployed people in Dover and Deal have taken up the New Enterprise Allowance. This is a scheme which provides unemployed people with a weekly allowance and business mentoring to help them come off benefits and start their own small firm.
It's a brilliant programme and I'm so pleased to see more people taking a punt and aspiring to get their own business off the ground. It's a real boost for the local economy and brings more jobs and money for local people.
But we can't rest on our laurels. There's still more to do. I'm a believer in opportunity politics. For everyone to have the chance to aspire to set up their own businesses and do really well. I will continue to campaign for cuts to business red tape and regulation to help more small businesses start up. We also need a serious reform of business rates, which will aid our great local shops and high streets.
I also welcome the cuts to National Insurance for small employers. From next year, small businesses will be able to employ four people on the Living Wage without paying any National Insurance at all. Not only will this boost local jobs, it will level the playing field between small businesses and rich corporations.
Dover and Deal has great local businesses. I will continue to do all I can to support their success and encourage even more start-ups.
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