Being back in Cabinet is certainly an honour, but I am clear that Hastings and Rye will always come first. I was re-elected to represent this constituency in 2017, and any additional responsibility within Government is supplementary to my role as an MP – so I would like to reassure residents of our towns that you will always be my priority.
During the eight years I have spent as the MP for our area, we have been among the first to trial some of the Government’s exciting new policies such as the Opportunity Area (extra funding for schools), Coastal Communities Fund, and of course, Universal Credit.
Speaking and meeting with local residents out in the town and in advice surgeries has provided me with a clear view on Universal Credit: it a good policy – combining what was 6 different complex benefits into one single online payment – but I know there are problems in certain areas. I know that it can be better and I will work to achieve this.
I am determined to help show that the Department for Work and Pensions is a force for good which helps people in need, protects the most vulnerable in our society, and helps people into work. This is the kind of service that I want for Hastings and Rye and it is what I will work towards during my time in office. This will start with delivering on talks within the DWP and with the Treasury to help ensure we have a fair, compassionate, and efficient benefits system.
One of my aims has been to improve employment locally and make sure that our towns are open for business. I am pleased that our number of local businesses has increased by 16.9% since 2010, this is particularly important for creating jobs in our towns.
I am also pleased that there are more people in work within Hastings and Rye, which has meant our out of work claimant count has dropped from 3,502 in 2010 to 2855 as of this month. This reflects the national situation, where we have more people in work and earning a good wage than ever before – as far back as records go to 1975.
As of today, I am one week into my new position but I look forward to the challenges ahead.