With all that is going on in Parliament, I want to focus on what really matters to our towns and the reason I represent our residents in the House of Commons. When I was first elected in 2010, I had three main priorities: 1. Get a better deal for our fishermen, 2. Bring faster journey times to our towns, 3. Boost our local economy and bring more businesses and jobs to the area.
I am pleased that there has been good progress on the first two of these: We have seen an increase in quota for the local fleet and an opportunity to protect our fishermen’s sustainable practices with a Marine Conservation Zone. Following my lobbying as a backbencher, an express train service was created which runs during peak times, ensuring that commuters do not have to sit on a train for two hours or more. There is still much more to be done on these two points, but I am excited to see what the future holds and will be making announcements at my transport summit later in the year.
Perhaps what I am most enthusiastic about is the progress made for our local economy. In 2010 after 13 years of Labour Government, East Sussex had 16,100 people out of work. Since then, this figure has more than halved and the unemployment rate has decreased from 6.1% to 2.8%. This is even better than the national unemployment rate of 4% - the lowest since records began – and means that more than 8,800 more local people have the dignity of a regular pay packet. Alongside this, more businesses have been setting up shop in Hastings and Rye with an estimated 540 new businesses in our towns. These are essential for providing local jobs and a range of shops on our high street. But it is not just about the figures.
My position as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions means that I oversee helping people back into work, but also provide support for the most vulnerable who are unable to do so. I have met with many constituents who have encountered difficulties in this area and it has given me a good insight for people’s similar experiences across the nation. My conversations with constituents have shaped the decisions I have taken towards making Universal Credit fairer for single mothers, and scrapping the need for PIP reassessments for older residents.
Last week, I spoke to young people in Hastings looking to get into work as part of a Youth Confident event held by the local JobCentre. This week, I will join a JobCentre roundtable in Hastings with several local organisations to discuss how we can improve support for residents. It is my hope that with continued input from local residents and organisations, we can build on the good work achieved and reinforce the Department for Work and Pensions as a force for good.