I AM proud to live in one of the most vibrant and dynamic constituencies in the country. We have a unique identity based on our strong sense of community, diversity and heritage. It has been a tremendous honour to represent Warwick and Leamington in Parliament since 2010, during which time we have seen a great deal of positive change.
As a former employee of MG Rover I am passionate about manufacturing, and as the co-chair of the All-Party Group on Manufacturing, I have worked hard to promote this vital sector. I am particularly pleased to have introduced Vitsœ, the furniture manufacturer, to this constituency and am delighted they are planning to relocate their production to the site of the old Ford Foundry.
I am also the chair of the All-Party Group on Video Games, and have campaigned effectively for tax relief which will significantly benefit many local companies, in what is now often referred to as Silicon Spa.
I play an active role in our community, including as a Patron of Myton School and the international development charity Cord, as a trustee of Motionhouse and the Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs (WAYC). I helped start the Leamington Street Pastors scheme and the Friends of Warwick Station Group. Earlier this year I launched the Love Leamington Fund.
Warwick and Leamington is home to nationally recognised events, from the Folk Festival in Warwick to the Food Festival in Leamington. I am grateful to the businesses through which I have helped to identify valuable funding to support many charities and other organisations, which improve our quality of life and attract so many visitors to our towns.
Our hospital is amongst the best in the country, a new orthopaedic ward is being built and the Rehabilitation Unit has a national reputation for excellence.
Our local economy is growing and unemployment is falling. There has been a dramatic fall of 74 per cent in the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), which is a measure of unemployment. Even more impressive is the reduction in the number of young people claiming JSA – a fall of 79 per cent. I pay tribute to our local businesses for the work they have done in having the confidence to take on new employees. Equally noteworthy is the number of new apprenticeships – some 2,710 have been started in the past five years. I praise our schools and colleges for the commitment they have given to providing our young people with the skills they need.
I introduced the Social Value Act into Parliament. This legislation makes Government contracts more accessible to social enterprises, charities and small businesses.
I have organised, together with partners such as Warwick District Council and Warwickshire College, two successful Jobs Fairs, bringing employers and jobseekers together. Similarly, we organised another event, ‘Living Well in Later Life’, which displayed a wide range of opportunities for older people.
I led a debate on the Living Wage in Parliament, and called for a rise in the Minimum Wage. As a member of the International Development Select Committee, I have seen and supported programmes that help some of the most vulnerable in the world.
I have challenged local and national government where necessary, whether voting against HS2 or against military intervention in Syria. I have always put my constituency and constituents first.
I meet regularly with a host of organisations, health services, schools and colleges, local business and charities, and listen to their concerns and provide support wherever possible.
Arguably, the most important part of my job is holding constituency surgeries, where I do my utmost to help constituents with various issues. When we are able to find a solution, this is without doubt the most rewarding part of my job.
Last week I visited the new development at the Trident Centre at Warwickshire College. This will open in August and will be home to 285 advanced and 253 higher apprentices. This building, and the students who will use its facilities, will be symbolic of how far we have come in terms of the recognition of our area as a national hub for manufacturing and its key role in rebalancing our economy. And that is something of which we can all be proud.
Together, we have made a great deal of progress. I know there is more work to be done, but there is so much about which we can be positive and optimistic. I would ask you to consider giving me your support on May 7, so we can continue that work.