Small businesses are the key to our economy

Police outside Wilmcote House, Portsmouth

Residents had to be signed in to Portsmouth flat block after police incident

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Having grown up living above my family’s high street shop – and working in it from an early age – I know just how important small businesses are to our local economy and community.

They are the backbone of local enterprise and manufacturing, provide employment, and contribute to rising living standards across the constituency.

That’s why I’ve organised the first-ever Havant Small Business Awards, to showcase and celebrate the wonderful range of local small businesses that we boast across Havant.

I’m inviting residents to nominate their favourite local businesses across twelve categories by visiting my website by April 1.

From Best Pub to Best Local Tradesperson and Best Street Vendor to Apprentice of the Year, I want to know your thoughts.

Every resident who sends me a nomination suggestion will be entered into a draw to win a pair of tickets to the awards ceremony, which promises to be a top evening.

I’m inviting three shortlisted finalists in each category to the awards ceremony at South Downs College in late April 2016.

Winners will be selected by an independent judging panel of local business and community leaders, co-chaired by the mayor of Havant and Gary Medlow, Managing Director of Fasset, a property management business that runs Langstone Technology Park.

Each of the twelve category winners and runners-up will receive plaque produced by Lewmar, a local marine and shipping products manufacturer based on Southmoor Lane in Havant.

One local firm will also be crowned Havant Small Business of the Year 2016, and they will join me for lunch in Westminster and receive some expert mentoring from Paul Lindley, founder of acclaimed baby food company Ella’s Kitchen.

Recent employment figures show that the number of jobseekers’ allowance claimants in Havant has more than halved since the 2010 election. Yet there’s no room for complacency.

Let’s keep backing our high streets, small shops and family businesses.