We've been working tirelessly to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent.
Back in 2010, things looked bleak. Unemployment locally had rocketed 50% in the Great Recession. More investment was badly needed in Dover and Deal.
Over the past decade we have come a long way. There are now 7,700 more people in work in Dover and Deal than in 2010. Meanwhile, more than £500 million has been invested in our area.
Nearly a year ago the new £50 million St James development opened. Where once Burlington House scarred the skyline there now stands a brand new multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants. It's a symbol of how much has changed.
Meanwhile, the £250 million Western Docks Revival is well underway, with the new seafront pier set to open by this summer. Half of this project's huge workforce are from East Kent. And by sourcing material and workers from our area, the port says there has already been a £157 million boost to the local economy. From the new marina curve, people will be able to relax while watching ferries sailing in and out of the port.
In Deal, the town's pier has already been transformed through £500,000 of investment – with £600,000 more to follow. The new Deal Pier Kitchen now draws hundreds of visitors who can at last truly enjoy this iconic landmark.
Big companies have set up shop in our district too. Multipanel UK relocated its manufacturing operation from China to Eythorne in 2014. I recently visited to see first-hand their 24/7 operation, producing more than 500,000 square metres of aluminium composite panels a month. Bosses told me they have been so successful that they hope to open new production lines – and hire up to 100 more staff.
We've been able to deliver more jobs and money by getting the nation's finances back in order and strengthening our economy. As a result, unemployment is now at a record high, rising 3.55 million since 2010. We've also helped the least well off by taking more than five million people out of paying income tax altogether. And over the past year wages have increased by 3.4% too.
We need to keep building on this important work. This time next month – on March 29th – I will be holding my seventh annual jobs fair. Every year we welcome hundreds of people to Dover Town Hall to meet with firms such as P&O Ferries and Megger, as well as local colleges and councils. I'm really looking forward to welcoming more people this year and helping them find the right job for them.
So much has changed in Dover and Deal in recent years. Yet we all know there is more to do. I will do everything I can to keep bringing more investment, jobs and money to our corner of Kent.