'I consider a key part of the local MP's role is to support local businesses wherever they can, working with them to troubleshoot problems and help create jobs; my own business background means I understand how hard people work to make their business a success.'
'We have some really fantastic local business people, who work incredibly hard to make a success to make a success of their enterprises, and I am pleased that we have such a strong Chamber of Commerce in the area, led by the dynamic David Watson. I am a Member of the Chamber and it has been my pleasure to work with them over many years, sometimes working to resolve individual businesses challenges, and also on more strategic issues, such as promoting the Government's start-up funding for businesses. I'm delighted that many local businesses have taken this up, and that we have a high level of individual businesses in the area, as well as a substantial increase in employment.
'I recently welcomed the news that in the Congleton Constituency the number of people claiming the key out of work benefits has fallen by 1,072 - a 67 per cent drop – since 2010, along with news that the UK unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest level in 12 years. It’s also great news in the North West where 220,000 more people are back in work in since 2010. Figures also show wages continuing to grow strongly, the employment rate running at a record high and long-term unemployment at its lowest since before the 2008 recession.
'One of the reasons I fought hard for funding for a Middlewich Bypass was to support the opening up of employment land for potentially 2,000 new jobs; it is important to fight for local jobs for local people, and I see this as one of my key roles. For this reason too I worked with leading local businesses from Congleton when they alerted me to the fact that the Local Plan, as originally drafted, had insufficient land designated as potential employment land, which would have limited the possibility of businesses growing in the area and the creation of new jobs. Some leading businesses were even saying they would not only be lost to the local area, if they could not expand, but even to the country. For this reason, I took a delegation of leading Congleton businesses to meet the Chief Planner at Cheshire East Council to discuss this issue and secure additional areas of land reserved for employment use in the Local Plan. I also met with the then-Prime Minister to present the business case for local businesses concerned on this, and am pleased that there is now more employment land reserved within the draft plan.
'It has been important that I keep pressing the Minister for the Digital Economy, for improvements for services in the constituency, so important for local businesses, especially in semi-rural areas, and I have met with the Minister on several occasions, raising constituency-wide and more specific issues - for example, concerns about broadband connections in the Somerford area.
'I commend the work of the Job Club at New Life Church, which has achieved amazing results - finding jobs for almost 100 people since it was started, not long ago. I also know that it is a real challenge when you are not in work, which is why I meet from time to time with groups of job seekers to listen to them and try to understand the challenges they face better.
'As MP, in Parliament I championed local businesses and was pleased to be able to announce in a Parliamentary Question the substantial grant from Government to Senior Aerospace Bird Bellows, one of Congleton's leading businesses, which is currently going from strength to strength. I have visited the company more than once, and it is really exciting to see how it is developing with innovative business plans and more job opportunities on the way.
'It is fantastic to see the long-standing, indeed iconic, Beresford Ribbons not only having a wonderful heritage but also a fantastic future, as they plan their move to new premises as they seek to fulfil the increasing numbers of orders they are receiving for their quality ribbon products!
'Congratulations to another leading businessman, Andy Pear, on his recent opening of The Wheatsheaf in Sandbach, which I highly recommend, and on being Highly Commended by Parliament's Corporate Responsibility Group for the way in which he runs his business Reliance Medical. It was great to welcome Andy to Parliament to receive his commendation (photo in gallery above).
'Yet another important, long-standing business is the local newspaper series, the Chronicle - independently owned and providing a real contribution towards the vibrant community life in my constituency. Whilst many other newspapers struggle to survive today, the Chronicle is not only tremendously popular but has also expanded! When I was first elected in 2010, the two publications serving my constituency were the Congleton Chronicle and Sandbach Chronicle. To these have now been added the Alsager Chronicle. I know I can't go down the street after I get back from Parliament at the end of the week if I haven't read the Chron - because someone will very quickly mention to me something which is in it!
'A key employer in my constituency, which it has been very rewarding to support during my time as MP for Congleton, is the globally-innovative scientific research at Jodrell Bank, and its world-leading role in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). It was most heartening to hear of the Government's grant of £16.5m in August 2016 towards this fantastic work, and I am very proud that the iconic radio-telescope dish is in my constituency. Jodrell Bank is part of the science corridor, stretching from Daresbury Park to the former site of Astra-Zenica, in which so much national investment has been made during the course of this Government - a real economic confidence boost for this area - and it has been good to work with colleagues MPs, Graham Evans of Weaver Vale and David Rutley of Macclesfield, to ensure Government support and major investment for this work in our local areas.
'It is great to see businesses flourish in the constituency, particularly small businesses - who are incredibly important - indeed, make up by far the large majority of local businesses. I know hard it is to start up and develop a business from scratch, having done so myself here in Cheshire, and run a business for over 20 years before entering Parliament. So I particularly enjoy supporting small businesses - every year I support them on Small Business Saturday by visiting them across the constituency. There is a photo in the gallery above of me in Sandbach at one of the best delis around.
'It has been a pleasure in the last year or so to support in particular the Sandbach Market traders, who were concerned their livelihoods might go, and am thrilled now when I visit to see the market even busier, stalls fulls occupied, and a real buzz about the place. Well done to the traders, and I look forward to the improvements they have been telling me about, which should make he market hall more attractive for locals and visitors alike. See the photo in the gallery above.
'It is great too when local businesses, as so many of them do, support charities near and far. It was good in particular to hear of the offer by Ian Mallon of Neon Freight to help transport knitted items to Nepal, since I had recently been there and know how cold it is! See the photo of me with Ian and some of the huge packs, in the gallery above. Well done too to Prism, a local computer advice company, for all they do to raise money for charity.
'Every year I am invited to the Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner in Cranage Hall, and am always so impressed with the achievements of the Award Winners. Congratulations to this year's Overall Award Winner: Fine Art, of Holmes Chapel, which produces quality wallpaper, much of it for export - it was great to visit. Again, see the photo in the gallery above.
'Last, but by no means least, one of the most important businesses in my constituency is farming - not only because of the number of farmers, but because they produce the foods we need to eat! I have been pleased to meet with groups of farmers in my constituency from time to time, to listen to their concerns, so that I could raise them in Parliament, as, for example, here, here, here, here, here and here.'