OPINION: It’s time for us all to unite

By Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham
By Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham
Artists impression of the 6,000-home development of Welborne.

Government gives funding for next stage of Welborne development

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During the past few weeks and months, as more and more attention has been focussed on the EU referendum, it has been easy to lose sight of some of the other important challenges facing us as a country.

Now that the decision has been made, it is time for us to unite and face those challenges together again, however we voted last week.

During the campaign, many colleagues in my party took a different view to my own, but I am pleased to say we never allowed that to get in the way of our friendships and common purpose.

We all care about implementing the manifesto we were elected on last year, and getting on with the job of building a strong economy.

Central to the mission of this government has been the aspiration to create more jobs and work towards the goal of full employment.

And one EU fact that all Conservatives can celebrate is this: Over the last parliament we saw employment in Britain rise by more than in the rest of the EU combined.

The latest jobs figures were published just a few weeks ago, and showed the positive news is continuing.

In Fareham, we’ve seen unemployment fall by 10 per cent in the past year alone – and there are more than 700 fewer people out of work and claiming benefits than there were in May 2010.

Those hundreds of extra jobs show our local economy is prospering, and providing a better standard of living for people here.

With a population of more than 1.3 million and more than 50,000 businesses, the Solent region is a significant economic area.

In 2014 our GVA figure (the value of goods and services we produce here) was £25.8bn.

However, our growth rate is 12 per cent below the south-east average and five per cent, below the UK average.

To improve this performance, improved transport infrastructure will be vital.

In Fareham we’re ideally located to be an important transport interchange, being midway between Portsmouth and Southampton but at present, train times to London are too slow, and there are no direct connections to Southampton airport, for example.

Meanwhile on the roads, we urgently need to upgrade junctions 9 and 10 of the M27 – particularly with the planned new developments at Welborne and Whiteley.

There has been some encouraging progress on that recently, but we need to keep up the pressure on the government and work with Hampshire County Council to get it done.

All of these projects and more are included in the excellent new Strategic Transport Investment Plan which has been drawn up by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

It contains some genuinely imaginative proposals for upgrading our local transport links, and I was pleased to meet them the other week to pledge my support to their bid for the government funding to make it a reality.

The launch of the proposals last month attracted support from my fellow MPs in the Solent region, and there is an encouraging degree of co-operation between us and our colleagues in local government to work together to achieve results.

As we look afresh at the future, we must continue to do all we can to build a stronger economy and the stronger society it makes possible. That is what I will be focussing on, and I hope it is an aim we can all unite to support.