What’s the most commonly-used phrase or sentence in Chester?
I’m having a guess that it’s “Sponsored by MBNA.”
Seriously, try to walk half a mile through the city without seeing something that MBNA hasn’t assisted.
The financial services and credit cards giant has its HQ on the Business Park, where it employs 3000 people and is growing.
Each employee gets up to a week’s leave every year to do voluntary work in the community.
But it’s the financial contribution to the life of Chester that also makes a difference.
I was at the Rugby Club recently – always a great afternoon out – and MBNA are a major sponsor, assisting with the development of new facilities which include more and better changing rooms for women players – whose numbers continue to increase.
Chester FC also benefit from MBNA as principal sponsors. And I see that MBNA has just sponsored a new pavilion at the racecourse.
Then there are cultural events. The Literature Festival is – you guessed it – sponsored by MBNA, and so is our new theatre, Storyhouse, along with their Open Air Theatre in the Park, whose summer season is now being advertised.
And in Handbridge, the exciting project at St Mary’s to build a new Parish and Community Centre, which is led entirely by local volunteers from the church, was given an early boost by the major support of MBNA which will help to attract other big sponsors for this important community facility.
MBNA are far from the only local business supporting the city, or even local community groups, in this way. For example, many small local businesses donate raffle prizes to church or community fetes.
I worry sometimes that we forget the wider contribution that the private sector makes to the life of our city. It isn’t just the jobs that are provided by Airbus, M&S Bank, Toyota, Vauxhall, Lloyds and the countless smaller firms that choose to base themselves in our area.
It is the little donation to the school raffle. It is the advert in the parish magazine to help it with printing costs. The purchase of flower bulbs or planning pots for the roadsides around the city. Little things that together make a big difference.
My opponents have accused me, as a Labour candidate, of not supporting private sector business. That is complete garbage, of course. I value hugely the role the private sector plays in our city and our country.
So to MBNA and all the Chester businesses, large and small, here’s a big thank you for the massive contribution they make to the life of the city. May we never take your support for granted.