The Forest of Dean has a thriving business community, with a range of enterprises from small family-run businesses to global companies.
As a Member of Parliament, I have spent a lot of time travelling around the constituency to meet with local businesses and employers and listen to their concerns. I also enjoy listening to their achievements - like when I met with KW Bell Group in Cinderford to hear about their groundwork apprenticeship scheme.
It was also great to host Lucozade Ribena Suntory, one of my constituency’s biggest employers, for an event in Parliament – fresh from their announcement of a £13 million investment into their world-class factory in Coleford.
I have enjoyed visiting the factory and meeting some of the staff there on a number of occasions. Being presented with a bespoke bottle of Ribena, from the Coleford Site Manager Mick Pedder, to celebrate their brand new recipe was a particular highlight.
I also want to make sure that small businesses and start-ups are getting the support they need to flourish.
As such, I am an active supporter of the Small Business Saturday campaign. Our economy could not function without our small businesses and the hardworking businessmen and women who are behind them.
In the Forest of Dean, the food and drink sector is very impressive, and I have used this campaign as an opportunity to put a spotlight on some of the amazing small businesses that produce brilliant food – like The Miners in Sling, Harts Barn Cookery School and The Speech House Hotel.
But support is needed all year round, which is why I visited the new Tewkesbury Growth Hub based within Tewkesbury Borough Council’s (TBC) main office earlier this year. This covers part of my constituency.
I met with the TBC Chief Executive, Mike Dawson, and several local business owners who run their companies through the Growth Hub.
The Growth Hub offers co-working spaces, meeting rooms and Business Navigator support at the purpose-built offices within the Public Services Centre at Tewkesbury Borough Council. It’s an ideal place for local firms to work and network in a professional environment, whether you're an entrepreneur who needs inspiring surroundings, or you're part of a team and need some headspace out of the office. I am pleased that access to business advice and workshops are available to businesses of all types in the region. A further Growth Hub will be opening in due course to cover the rest of my patch.
Supporting business is a crucial part of building a strong economy, creating jobs and security for everyone.
Employment in the UK is at its highest rate on record, at 76.1%, with 3.76 million more people in work since Conservatives took office in 2010 – many of them in small businesses.
In the Forest of Dean, the number of people who are claiming out-of-work benefits has fallen by nearly a third since 2010 – making the claimant rate lower than the UK average.
Behind every employment statistic is a person and a family whose self-esteem, mental wellbeing, economic circumstances and life chances are all vastly improved by being in the workplace.
Labour will get in the way of small businesses. They have consistently pledged to increase corporation tax, add more red tape and create a new financial transaction tax.
No wonder no Labour government has ever left office with unemployment lower than when it started, and the number of unemployed people increased by 1 million in Labour’s last term in office.
Conservatives are backing businesses to create more jobs – and with record high employment for women and disabled people, it’s clear that the Conservatives know how to grow the economy and make it vibrant with opportunities for everyone.
I will continue to support all enterprises from small family-run businesses to global companies so we can continue building a strong economy, creating jobs for everyone in the Forest of Dean.