A Derbyshire businessman has outlined his vision for a 'new deal for Britain’s forgotten communities’ during a speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Christopher Nieper, managing director of fashion firm David Nieper Ltd in Alfreton, singled out his hometown as an example of one of the country's many 'left-behind towns' highlighted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Alfreton has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the area, according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) - with attainment in education significantly lower than the national average.
But Mr Nieper's firm - which has been one of the largest employers in the town for almost 60 years - is playing a key role in creating local jobs and developing skills within the community as part of its drive to place social justice at the heart of its business model.
In 2016, the business took the unprecedented step of sponsoring its local school which had become symptomatic of the community’s social and educational breakdown.
The school was in the bottom two per cent in the country for attainment, with teacher strikes and students leaving in their droves.
But since then the school has improved its Ofsted rating and tripled its intake of students moving up from primary school - creating a waiting list for the first time in more than 20 years.
He told the conference: "This school had suffered enough. These families had no-one fighting their corner. They had been let down by previous governments and I was deeply concerned for the future of the children, their families and the knock-on effect for the whole community and local economy.
"Our family business had moral obligation to step in.
"What I have learned since then, is that Alfreton is not an isolated case. All over the UK there are literally hundreds of communities like Alfreton, Boris calls them the ‘left-behind towns’ . . . I call them the forgotten towns.
"These towns need a voice and proper representation – I was hugely encouraged to hear Boris pledge his support to these ‘forgotten people’ and ‘left-behind’ towns in his first speech as Prime Minister, at last support for communities and for companies like ours fighting for social justice.”
He added: “The David Nieper Academy takes a pioneering approach to education and offers a unique formula for the worlds of business and education to work together promoting opportunity and social mobility."