The festive season is now upon us and I was delighted to support local shops in the constituency earlier this month and celebrate Small Business Saturday. Many local businesses benefit enormously from the Christmas-related trade and Small Business Saturday was an excellent opportunity to highlight the tremendous contribution local retailers and small firms make to our local economy.
The majority of jobs in the Witham constituency are based in the thousands of small and medium sized enterprises in our villages and Witham town. I pay tribute to all of those businesses who support local jobs and growth in our economy.
As a result of the investment made by these firms in jobs and the support that the Government has given through its long term economic plan, the number of people in work is increasing. Across the country, there is now a record 31.3 million people in work, with over 2.25 million jobs created since 2010, most of which are full time. There has been good new locally on unemployment too. This week figures released from the Office of National Statistics have shown that the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants have fallen by 30% in the Witham constituency over the last year to 499 and by 70% since they peaked under the last Labour Government. The number of claimants aged 18 to 24 has also dropped by 40% this year and nearly 80% since 2010.
I know that the security of a pay packet for families in the run up to Christmas is incredibly welcome and it is also fantastic to see more young people securing employment and apprenticeship places.
During the Christmas and New Year period, many of us will be spending time with our families and loved ones. While we are relaxing, we should spare a thought for those in our communities who will be working in our hospitals and emergency services to keep us safe. I also pay tribute to those who give up their time to volunteer to visit elderly neighbours and offer help to others.
We should also remember that many members of our brave Armed Forces are serving overseas, including the RAF based in Cyprus engaged in action in the skies over Iraq and Syria to defend our interests from the threats posed by Daesh/ISIL.
In 2016, I am looking forward to continuing to help my constituents, meet more local organisations, and support our businesses. My campaigns to deliver road and rail improvements, new health services into the constituency and support more people into employment will continue.
I wish all of my constituents a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Should anyone need my assistance during the holiday period, I can be contacted by email to: WithamMP@parliament.uk
The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Member of Parliament for Witham