The local election campaign trail was a great opportunity to chat to people about what matters to them. Unsurprisingly, there was a sense of deep frustration over Brexit and a strong desire to get on with it – deal or no deal. We need to leave the EU and move on.
Yet the election also produced a hugely impressive set of results. An increased majority was a real testament to the hard work, teamwork and dedication of our local team. So much progress has been made locally in recent years. 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. Yet there are now 7,700 more people in work in Dover and Deal, while there has been more than £500 million of investment.
Nearly a year ago the new £50 million St James development opened. Where Burlington House once scarred the skyline, there now stands a brand-new multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants. Meanwhile the new leisure centre is a packed-out, massive success.
The £250 million Western Docks Revival is also well underway. I was lucky enough to walk along the new pier which opened recently. It will be a great asset for our community in the years to come.
In Deal, the town's pier is undergoing its most comprehensive refurbishment with £500,000 of investment and £600,000 more to follow. The new Deal Pier Kitchen draws hundreds of visitors who can at last truly enjoy this iconic landmark. The long-awaited Regent cinema plans are progressing.
Big companies have set up shop in our district too. Multipanel UK relocated its manufacturing operation from China to Eythorne in 2014. Last year I visited 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.
All this investment has been delivered with the lowest council tax in east Kent. This is what a strong vision and teamwork can achieve – real investment, excellent services and great value for money.
We've been able to deliver more jobs and money by getting the nation's finances back in order. Unemployment is at a record low. We've also cared for the least well off by taking more than five million people out of paying income tax altogether. And over the past year wages have been rising well above inflation.
Much has been done. Yet there is much more to do. We need more investment in our roads, including a dualled A2 and lorry parks. We must focus like a laser beam on our high streets. We must strive for stronger borders.
And we want to get on with leaving the European Union. An incredibly bright future lies ahead – for this country and for our area. Let's keep working together to deliver it.
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