In 2016 we celebrated our rich history with a full calendar of festivals and events to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
In 2017 we are looking to the future and the potential our area has for growth and regeneration.
Key to this are our children and young people. In January I was delighted to welcome the Government’s announcement that Hastings would become an Opportunity Area. This gives Hastings and St Leonards access to a £72m fund to address specific social mobility needs. Last month I joined the first Opportunity Area roundtable. This brought together the Department for Education, Hastings Borough Council, local headteachers, businesses and other stakeholders to help ensure that the funding we receive is targeted correctly. This is an exciting project which can make a real difference giving local children the best possible start in life and every chance of fulfilling their full potential.
School visits are important to me. So far this year I have visited St Mary Star of the Sea, ARK Blacklands, West St Leonards, and Christ Church, and I have visits planned to the Hastings and St Leonards Academies, Rye College, Studio and Primary as well as Hollington, Westfield, Brede and Robsack Wood. These visits allow me to see for myself the success of our local schools and the dedication of teachers and staff.
In Hastings and Rye the number of people claiming the key out of work benefits last month was down by 54% from 2010. However, I am clear that more can be done to support people into employment. In September I will be holding my seventh Jobs Fair to help local jobseekers find vacancies in our area which meet their talents and ambitions.
Much more is also being done to help people with disabilities into work. In March I was proud to announce that my parliamentary office became Disability Confident committed. And, in July, I will host a Disability Confident event to improve understanding among local employers about the benefits of hiring disabled people.
This year we are seeing efforts for the regeneration of our area step up a gear. Last week it was announced that the White Rock area will receive over £800,000 from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. Overall, the Government has committed more than £30m of lottery grant funding since 2010 and over £2.5m in coastal communities funding since 2012 to our ongoing regeneration.
As well as these schemes, I want to see our area become as attractive as possible for investment. That’s why I was pleased to see my long-running project to slash journey times between here and London move a step closer with the inclusion of high speed rail in the consultation on the next Southeastern franchise. There is still more to do to secure this investment but, with another Rail Summit planned for later this year, we are on the right track.
In June I will be hosting a Pensioners’ Fair to showcase to residents who are retired or approaching retirement the services and opportunities which are available to them around Hastings and Rye.
As we look forward to the months and opportunities ahead, I would like to wish you all a very happy and restful Easter.