A strong economy supports strong public services and thriving businesses. That’s why it was welcome to see this week that the economy has now grown back to its pre-pandemic level.
The pandemic has been the biggest crisis to affect our country since the Second World War. It has taken an incredible toll on all of us. In addition to the lives lost to Covid, it has had such an impact on our livelihoods and the economy too. But the measures taken early on and throughout the pandemic protected our jobs, livelihoods and businesses. An unprecedented amount of financial support through furlough, business grants and loans and self-employment support, as well as additional welfare assistance for poorer households. More than £100 Billion was invested in furlough and revenue support schemes for employed and self-employed workers. Twelve million jobs were protected through the furlough scheme alone, particularly shielding the hotel, restaurant and leisure sectors, together with direct support for nearly three million self-employed people. The various Government business loans schemes exceeded £80 Billion of support nationwide. That approach – to protect livelihoods and help many businesses who would otherwise go bust – has protected jobs across the country, and here in Dover and Deal.
That Government support has been alongside fresh investment in our community. In recent months there has been a new ferry operator, Irish Ferries, who join P&O and DFDS for the cross-channel routes at the Port of Dover. In addition, the Government has committed more than £100 million for two new border facilities at the White Cliffs which are set to support more than 650 jobs. I recently opened the newly refurbished Esso/Greggs filling station at Walmer. In December I held a Skills Summit with many local businesses. I was pleased to hear about thriving new ventures, like ‘Let’s Go, Escargot’ run by Deal resident Audrey Marett. As well as from a range of educational, skills, insurance, construction and other businesses. There is no doubt that our area is well placed to make the most of the opportunities as we move through the pandemic and has the go-getting and hard-working attitude to do just that.
However, as we move on from the pandemic there will inevitably be the bill to pay for the support that has been provided. There is a need for further investment in our local roads and roundabouts as well as other core services. That’s why a thriving economy is so important. So that we can get the investment in public services and infrastructure we need to take us and our country forward in the years to come.
It’s great news that our economy is now larger than it was before the pandemic. As we move forward, let’s grab every opportunity and work hard to make the most of it.