Over the last three years, we have been subject to huge national and international challenges. From the Covid pandemic to the war in Ukraine, and the sad passing of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, it has been, and continues to be, a changing and challenging environment. Throughout this period I have been focused on delivering for our area, especially around our key priorities of better healthcare, more jobs and money and stronger infrastructure.
It is impossible to separate the challenges in healthcare and the economy over the last three years from the Covid pandemic that swept the world. Covid hit shortly after I became an MP and it continues to dominate our national public finances as much as our healthcare. This great national challenge affected us all in different ways, but I remain hugely proud of Super Neighbours and other local responses that ensured we looked after each other in our community during a fearful and isolating time.
Moving forward from Covid, I worked hard to secure one of the first new Diagnostics Centres to start to tackle the Covid backlog. In Deal I am working with health campaigning residents to improve blood testing services by bringing them back to Deal Hospital to help residents and take pressure off GP surgeries. I have met with the Chief Executive of the local health trust and Ministers about the urgent improvements that are needed for maternity care in our local hospitals, following the work undertaken on the Kirkup Review into avoidable baby deaths.
Rishi Sunak, then the Chancellor, provided unprecedented amounts of money to keep businesses afloat and extra welfare support too. That generous support was the right thing to do. But it does leave the public finances with a Covid hangover, with the war in Ukraine creating further financial pressures, nationally and individually.
In spite of the economic challenges, our area has had some impressive improvements in jobs since the Covid pandemic. Unemployment is down since before the pandemic and wages have been going up. Youth unemployment really matters to me. It is essential that young people aren’t leaving school and going on the dole. So it’s very encouraging that youth unemployment is down more than 15% since the pandemic. That’s more than 100 local young people in work, training or apprenticeships. The £18.1million Levelling Up funding brings with it a new digital and creative skills campus for Dover to create new skills and jobs.
There’s much happening on infrastructure to make our area more resilient and stronger too. This includes ultra-fast broadband being installed across the area and an extra £45million awarded as part of the wider Keep Dover Clear work in the port and on our roads.
It’s been a whirlwind three years as the Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I’ll continue to stand up for our area and work to secure the money for our community that we need.