Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 

Business

A new, local initiative aimed at invigorating the economic recovery by investing in a new generation of start up and early stage businesses is planned for Bedford. One hundred local business leaders from Bedford attended the launch by MP, Richard Fuller at the University of Bedfordshire.

The proposed Fund, which will be advised by local business leaders and managed by South East Fund Managers Limited, an FSA regulated entity, will seek to raise an initial fund of £500,000 in units of £10,000.

This will be boosted by co-investment from Finance South East and national government schemes, with a potential total of £2 million.  Investments will be made on a purely commercial basis, with the goal of maximizing financial returns to investors.

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Richard with Jake Marsden (PV Installer) at Carillion

Bedford MP Richard Fuller has praised local company, Carillion Energy Services for its commitment to training and apprenticeships.

The MP was keen to see how the company was creating sustainable jobs in Bedford and the impact that this was having upon skills in the area.

Mr Fuller met senior managers and also had the opportunity to speak first hand with renewable installation engineer, Jake Marsden who gained vital training on the installation of solar photovoltaic panels at the Academy and qualified fully in October 2010.

Richard said: “I was really pleased to see first hand the scale of the Training Academy and I am particularly proud that Carillion Energy Services have chosen to use Bedford as the location for their UK Training Academy. Green Skills and employment are vital to the development of both the local and wider economy and here in Bedford, we are actively involved in developing these.”

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Richard recently visited Cranfield University Technology Park to learn more about the leading innovative businesses based there and the technical advancements being made in the region.

Screenetics, Prolite and Cabair – all based at the Technology Park’s Innovation Centre – gave tours of their offices and explanations of their latest innovations to the MP, who also took part in a flight simulation provided by Cabair. The three businesses exemplify the type of organisation that is attracted to Cranfield University, which aims to encourage and facilitate the development of knowledge-based businesses.

Richard was impressed with what he saw, commenting:

“The businesses I visited compete in very different sectors but they share the same passion for entrepreneurship. We need to nurture that passion to create the next generation of businesses and jobs, and Cranfield University Technology Park has a critical role to play in making that happen.”

As the Prime Minister of this discredited Parliament was heading to the Palace to seek a dissolution, we were looking forward to electing a new Government under David Cameron’s leadership, by winning the key seat of Bedford and Kempston.

Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, highlighted the importance of winning the seat by making Bedford the first stop in his countrywide campaign to stop Labour’s Job Tax.  Labour’s proposed tax on jobs would hit local people hard – many are already struggling to find work, with local unemployment way up on the regional average and nearly double what it was when Labour came to power in 1997.  Labour’s Job Tax will snuff out, not nurture, the recovery and to listen to Labour ministers claim that it would help employment just goes to show how out of touch they are.

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Richard with participants in the Evening with the Entrepreneurs Event at Bedford College

The question that is most on the minds of people when I chat with them on the doorstep is “What can we do about the economy?”

People know that the country’e economy is in a mess – and they will render their judgement on those responsible when the time comes.  They know it is tough to answer all the questions; that there is no magic wand that can wave away the colossal debts racked up by the Government.  What people are looking for is a clear way forward and for leaders who can inspire confidence and who can lead.

Well, Bedford College was the venue in late March for a panel of leaders of business and social enterprise; people who can inspire, who have led, and who had very clear views of the way forward.  Their audience was the next generation of leaders – those in our upper schools, our colleges and other young people who have an idea, an inspiration of their own – and who were looking for advice and guidance about how to move forward.  You can see a video clip from Local News TV below:

Hosted by Irfan Latif, Deputy Head of Bedford School, the panellists took turns to describe their passion for what they do, how they got a start in life and what drives them forward.  First up was Adele Blakebrough, a pioneer in social enterprise and founder of the Breakthrough Foundation.  Damon Buffini, the Chairman of Permira spoke next and spoke of his work with Fairbridge, a nationwide charity that helps young people in to work.

Tim Campbell, the winner of the TV show “The Apprentice” spoke about the motivations from his childhood, about working with Alan Sugar and of his current project, The Bright Ideas Trust, that invests in businesses started up by young people in London.  Next up was our own, Lance Haggith, founder of Sports Traider and he was followed by Shaa Wasmund, who spoke directly of the drive that came from her experiences at school and which led her to work for Chris Eubanks, Bob Geldof and James Dyson.

Sparking, nurturing, investing behind and supporting entrepreneurial talent is the key to our country’s future success.  We have enormous talents here in Bedford and Kempston, and also across our nation – talents that can revolutionise our social services, create breakthrough ideas and build world beating companies.  Government can help to enable those who aspire; it can break down barriers that inhibit people from stepping forward with their idea; it can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks; it can reward those who succeed from those risks, and for those who fail, give them a second chance to learn from their mistakes by trying again.

It was an exceptional panel discussion, expertly hosted by Irfan Latif who managed to draw out common themes and produce a vivid picture of entrepreneurship that can inspire a new generation of Bedfordians.

Jim Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer of Unilever PLC, was my guest at the inaugural meeting of Bedford Futures Business Club.  Unilever is a major local employer and I toured their Colworth facility learning about Unilever’s new conference centre and their advances in ice cream technology!

Jim Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer, Unilever PLC with Richard at the Embankment Hotel, Bedford

Welcoming Jim Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer, Unilever PLC at the Embankment Hotel, Bedford

Jim spoke about Unilever’s recession beating strategies and expressed support for my campaigns to strengthen Bedford as a business location.

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The latest dismal unemployment statistics prompted me to research the data on the personal stories that I am hearing on the doorsteps across town.  Many of these are from mid-career people who have found themselves out of work and with tough prospects of getting back a job, or getting back started running their own business.

Much of this unemployment would be hidden from the national statistics, because many do not claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, but the statistics tell the story anyway.

Midcareer Unemployment Statistics

Compared to the national average, Bedford & Kempston has a high level of people aged 25-49 seeking work.  Perhaps you are one of these people, or maybe one of your family members or friends?  If so, or if you care about how we can get people back in to work in our town, please send me your views by taking our survey, available here.

When Labour came to office in 1997, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Bedford and Kempston was the same as the national average – 4.3% of the working population in both case.

Today, whereas the national average is still below that June 1997 figure at 4.1%, the rate in Bedford and Kempston is much higher at 5.3%.

Why has unemployment in Bedford risen?

Employment prospects in Bedford and Kempston have suffered under Labour.  We have not capitalised on the boom period to attract new employment, promote local businesses or even to shape a coherent, consistent strategy to restore our economic health.  As a Bedfordian, and in my heart, I know we can do better.