2014 has been a record-breaking year. Locally, in the Hemel Hempstead constituency, unemployment has now reached a new low at 1,089 - nearly half what it was in May 2010. That puts the percentage of unemployed claimants at just 2.1% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64.
New figures last week show that at the start of the year, and for the first time ever, there were over 5 million private sector businesses in the UK. This is a record annual increase of 333,000 new businesses since the start of 2013.
Each one of these businesses is someone setting up on their own, taking risks, putting in a lot of hard graft and bringing their ideas to life. It is a real delight to attend the launch of a business and then watch it grow. I regularly walk past the Tea Tree in the Old Town, which I opened in the summer, and it is great to see it busy with customers.
We’re attracting big businesses as well. In the past couple of years Royal Mail, Amazon and Britvic have all brought new jobs to the area.
It’s not just the local economy that is doing well. As many of you will know I’m a great sports fan and we’ve had a good sporting year too.
It is fantastic news that local gymnast, Max Whitlock, has been shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He has had an amazing year and is a real credit to our town.
Lots of our sports clubs are strong and thriving, but I have to highlight some particular successes. Many people thought Hemel Hempstead Town would find it hard going for the first season in the Conference South, but they are more than holding their own – long may it continue. It was also a real joy to watch them in the first round of the FA Cup for the first time ever – or certainly since the appearance of one of their forerunners Apsley FC back in 1938!
Hemel Storm continues to pull in huge crowds. It is a real family occasion with people from all ages – grandparents to the very young. The Swimming club goes from strength to strength and Sapphire Gym has opened fantastic new premises in Mark Road which has made a massive difference.
Finally, Christmas is fast approaching and it’s good to see the local shopping centres looking festive. One local event which is an annual highlight on the Penning Christmas calendar is the Santa Dash in aid of the Hospice of St Francis. I had to watch last year due to a back injury, but I’m running again this year. Why not join me (and a few hundred other Santas) for a fun fundraising event? Sunday 14th December at Riverside in the Town Centre – put it in your diary!
In any event, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all local residents a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – it looks set to be an interesting one!!