It has been a dramatic time in politics. We now have a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, who I know will provide the strong leadership required to bring our country together and to continue to deliver a strong economy. I am pleased that she has already made it clear that we need to do more to help working people by forging a vision of a country that works for every single one of us, not just the privileged few.
In addition, it is a fantastic honour to have been appointed Home Secretary. It is a huge department and I look forward to taking responsibility for not only keeping the country safe and secure but also keeping up my representation of Hastings and Rye. To those of you who ask whether I will still be as active around the constituency, I most certainly will be!
Here in Hastings and Rye we have much to be proud of and we have a great future ahead of us. Last weekend I visited the 17th Hastings Robsack Wood Scout Group at their fundraiser in the Robsack Centre where I met many of the scouts and learnt a little more about what they get up to. Huge congratulations to the Group on raising over £460 whilst also recruiting new members to join their Group. Also, on Saturday afternoon I visited the Art Car Boot Fair organised by the Jerwood Gallery. Eighty artists set up stalls on the Stade, accompanied by a host of vintage cars lent by the event sponsors Vauxhall. It was great to see such enthusiasm and passion for art in Hastings and events like these really help to encourage artists from every background to showcase their work. The Jerwood is a fantastic supporter of artists and it is a wonderful asset for Hastings which we can be rightly proud of.
Unemployment figures out this week show that there are sixty-nine fewer JSA claimants in Hastings and Rye since last month and eleven per cent fewer people claiming JSA since last year. Nationally, the employment rate in the UK is now at a record high of 74.4% and the unemployment rate is at its lowest in over 10 years at 4.9%. This is great news for working families. More people are in work now than at any other point in our history. We now have to build on this success story so that everybody can benefit from the opportunities that are being created regardless of who they are or where they come from.
Furthermore, the Government has just released the results of the 2015 to 2016 Community Life Survey, which shows that charitable donations from the giving public remain at their highest ever level. Personally, I know many people in our local community continue to give huge amounts of their time and money to the causes that matter most to them, contributing towards a bigger, stronger society, not least in helping to rebuild our beloved Pier. I am proud that communities across the country are pulling together, showing compassion and creating better places to live and I will do everything I can to continue to encourage this by working with local charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises to further promote volunteering, fundraising and giving back to communities.
Of course there is more to do locally. I set out my rail vision for our local area back in 2010, and over the last six years progress has been made and that vision is coming closer. Despite challenges with the public finances and with the performance of Network Rail, we will shortly see the organisation publish its analysis of the cost of extending High Speed rail to Rye, Hastings and Bexhill. Once this happens it will be our job to make the case for the investment in these improvements. I will certainly take the lead in these efforts. Success will bring better travel, more jobs and greater opportunities to our communities.
While we hope that the glorious weather of this week will continue, we can be certain that there will be lots to do locally this summer. With Parliament breaking up for recess, I am looking forward to taking part in many events at Hastings Old Town Carnival Week- a highlight for me every year. From the Pett Flower Show to the circus and concerts on the Pier and the 1066 commemorations later this year, we will certainly struggle to be bored over the next few months!