GENERAL ELECTION: Labour council leader to take on Amber Rudd in Hastings and Rye

Peter Chowney SUS-150713-070902001
Peter Chowney SUS-150713-070902001

Labour’s leader of Hasting Borough Council will take on Tory MP Amber Rudd at next month’s general election.

Peter Chowney, who took over as leader in 2015, is looking to unseat the Home Secretary and take back a seat which was held by his party between 1997 and 2010.

Mrs Rudd, who was first elected to Hastings and Rye in 2010, increased her majority to nearly 5,000 votes back in 2015.

In a statement on Facebook Mr Chowney said: “I’m very pleased to have been selected as the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye.

“I decided to put my name forward because I believe, as leader of Hastings Council, I have the necessary knowledge and commitment to Hastings and Rye to represent the interests of the constituency in Parliament.

“As a Hastings borough councillor over the past seventeen years, I’ve seen significant regeneration in Hastings: the pier has re-opened, derelict buildings have been improved through the council’s Grotbuster and compulsory purchase programmes, the White Rock Baths and other seafront structures have been given a new lease of life, and the council has gained national and international recognition as a cultural hotspot, embracing everything from visual art at the Jerwood Gallery to a thriving local music scene, culminating in last year’s council-organised ROOT1066 festival to commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

“But despite this remarkable transformation, serious problems remain.

“Some Hastings neighbourhoods are amongst the most deprived in the country, with high levels of unemployment, child poverty, low skills, and poor health. But these issues are not confined to Hastings. Deprivation isn’t restricted to the urban areas of Hastings and St Leonards, it affects smaller coastal towns such as Camber and parts of Rye, and there are pockets of rural poverty – something that’s often overlooked by over-simplistic analyses.

“There is a housing crisis too, with a massive shortage of genuinely affordable homes, either to buy or to rent. And that affects most of our constituency’s population, not just the areas of highest deprivation.

“Since 2010, the ability of the local authorities to tackle these problems has been severely hampered by huge cuts to public services. Schools have not been able to improve educational attainment in the poorer areas, adult social care has been woefully underfunded, and the NHS has struggled to cope.

“Benefit cuts, caps and sanctions have thrown people out of their homes, placing additional burdens on health, welfare and council services. Councils in particular have been hit hard, with government funding slashed by more than half here in Hastings.

“Inevitably, those huge cuts mean that councils everywhere have had to cut important services, such as community development, training and apprenticeship programmes, and even public toilets.

“If we’re to bring economic regeneration to all the people of Hastings and Rye, we need big changes to government policy. We need cuts to public services reversed, with councils, police, schools, and the NHS properly funded to solve the problems they face. We need house building, especially social rented housing, on a massive scale. And that means proper government intervention, not incentives to developers working in a market that the government itself has described as ‘broken’.”

He described how they needed investment in its infrastructure, as well as protecting both the built and natural heritage

He added: “And to do all that, we need a change of government. We need a Labour government, a government that will take a longer-term approach to the economy with sensible, sustainable investment to promote economic growth and reduce the budget deficit, rather than ideological austerity, an approach that has caused so much damage and so much suffering to so many, especially here in Hastings and Rye.

“All of which, and more, is why I’ve decided to stand as the Labour candidate for Hastings and Rye in the forthcoming by-election. Hastings and Rye needs a change. Vote Labour.”

The other candidate already announced in Hastings and Rye is the Lib Dems’ Nick Perry.

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