After we leave the EU, we must ensure that a renaissance of the regions – including coastal areas like ours – is at the very heart of building Brexit Britain.
The referendum was a vote to take back control – a vote for real change. It was a vote heard loudest in the towns and regions of our nation, while less so in the big cities that account for so much of our national wealth.
In Dover and Deal, our coalfield history means we are home to hundreds of former miners. These are among the people who feel forgotten by Westminster. These are the lives we should focus on transforming as we try to build a Britain everyone can be a part of.
I have been fighting for miners to enjoy a greater share of surpluses from their pension scheme. Currently it operates on a 50/50 split because the Government guarantees the scheme and takes on the risk. Yet there is little risk in reality and a strong case to be more generous.
I’ve also been working to see that the Kent Mining Museum is completed. The £9.5 million scheme in Betteshanger was “85% finished” until the college group funding it collapsed. When it became clear it would be disposed of, I argued that the Government should sell it without debt. In recent weeks I’ve been pressing Homes England to ensure any sale comes with strict conditions – that the museum is finished and the Country Park is preserved.
Last week the former miners I have been working with on these campaigns showed me around Betteshanger Welfare Sports and Social Club in Cavell Square. This fantastic facility tackles poor health and loneliness at all ages. Membership is growing and I’m trying to help them get funding from Sport England to make it even better.
Because it is vital that investment keeps coming to communities like ours. With things like the St James cinema and shops, the new leisure centre and the Western Docks Revival, we’ve had more than £500 million of investment since 2010.
We’ve also seen more jobs – our area has 7,700 more people in work than a decade ago. And we are finally getting a fairer share for our schools. The new funding formula – something I fought for because our kids were getting thousands less than their London peers – will see schools boosted by 7.2% when it comes in. In healthcare we got a new £24 million hospital, when facilities elsewhere in the country were closing. A new £30 million East Kent Medical School is on the way too, so more doctors and nurses are trained locally.
Yet all this should just be the start. Brexit Britain must work better for places like Dover and Deal. That means better road links – with the A2 dualled and a modern link road from the A256 to northern Deal. It means better broadband – so our rural communities and businesses are connected to the modern world.
It means a better Britain. That is why we must leave the EU at the end of October – so we can get on with building it.