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My visit to Kent recently came at a pivotal time for our economy.
Growth has returned, there are record numbers in work, unemployment is falling and inflation is under control.
This economic resurgence has seen employment in Kent rise by 17,700 and the claimant count fall by 5,808 (20.9%) – all in just one year.
I was really impressed by my visit to Maidstone’s Mid Kent College where so many apprentices are training, helping them get on in life regardless of background.
Our Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for the area Jasper Gerard had told me how that constituency alone had created 1,600 apprenticeships in a brilliant partnership between Liberal Democrats in government and businesses in Kent.
At Mid Kent we even found a mock-up of an aeroplane, where countless local youngsters have trained to become cabin crew.
So successful has our apprenticeship scheme become that Kent County Council report it is actually running short of apprentices – contrast that with Spain where a quarter of young people are out of work.
My party went into coalition in 2010 to repair the British economy after it had been comprehensively wrecked by Labour.
We have taken very difficult decisions, but this has enabled us to help people across Kent.
But it is the apprenticeship scheme which makes me especially proud – 39,880 people have undertaken an apprenticeship in Kent, 22,940 of them aged 24 and under.
My party’s vision is to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. Initiatives like the apprenticeship scheme make that vision a reality.
This scheme is so important that we are giving extra help to businesses with less than 1,000 employees.
The economy is improving, but recovery is still in its early stages. One risk it faces is giving the impression to businesses that our country is even flirting with leaving the EU.
The Liberal Democrats are the party of ‘IN’. Not because we have an irrational love of Europe – but because we know that ‘IN’ means ‘IN’ work.
Research suggests that over 3.5m UK jobs depend on trade with Europe, more than 73,000 in Kent.
Why put this recovery and these jobs at risk?
Your county has a wonderful pedigree as the Garden of England and the Gateway to Europe.
I’m heartened to see the benefits economic recovery is bringing to Kent.
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