EMPLOYMENT minister Priti Patel praised the entrepreneurs of south Essex during a visit to a growing business.

Ms Patel, Tory MP for Witham, stopped at human resource consultants Practicalhr, at the Star Lane Industrial Estate, Great Wakering.

It was part of a whistlestop tour of SMEs (small and medium- sized enterprises) across the county.

Friday's visit was organised by the Essex Chambers of Commerce.

The chambers’ chief executive, Denise Rossiter, and Practicalhr’s owner, Paula Fisher, discussed the impact of Government policies on businesses of its size,.

Ms Patel said: “Since becoming a minister, I’ve led the way in raising the profile of the Chambers of Commerce, the businesses, jobs and employment of Essex in Parliament, because Essex is a booming county of entrepreneurs with lots of SMEs.

“About 85 per cent of my constituents are employed by SMEs, which is more than 20 per cent above the national average, and many of these across the county are expanding and doing amazing things across a range of sectors. I’ve met a former apprentice at Practicalhr who is now a full member of the team.

“We’ve seen a great deal of expanding businesses take on young people as apprentices which is great, because employer- led training is incredibly important, and there’s no greater place than a company with a focus for that.”

Mrs Fisher founded Practicalhr in 2002, and now employs eight people She said: “I’m delighted Priti visited us, as we’ve been able to talk to her not just as an SME, but on behalf of around 200 clients we represent, most of which are in the SME sector, about the things which concern us.”

Ms Rossiter added: “I’m a conduit for our members and take their issues to Government and let the relevant people hear them.

“Essex is a marvellous county for business and that’s the work of the Essex Chambers of Commerce.

“We want to listen to businesses and make sure the right people hear their issues.”