IT’S been just over a year since I was given the honour of being elected as your MP and while it has more often than not been challenging and demanding, I have also found it to be incredibly fulfilling.
Early on I set up the MP’s Commission, which I have worked with to run a procurement conference to increase business opportunities for local companies by helping them to gain contracts with local public sector bodies, to the popular Apprenticeship Scheme to find 100 Apprenticeships with local firms for 100 local apprentices – which we achieved after only 19 days!
The commission and I have also worked hard, along with the council, the local Chamber of Commerce, the Eastbourne Hospitality Association and the FSB, to ensure among other things that the tennis was as big a success as possible this year. I wanted to ensure local people felt a part of the tennis and Eastbourne businesses took full advantage of all the commercial opportunities available to them in the form of visitors to the town. You may have seen the tennis passport we produced for the tournament promoting local traders and encouraging tennis goers to spend their money in Eastbourne. I’m already working hard to make 2012’s tournament an even bigger success and my next project is to bring back the Eastbourne Carnival. Residents have been telling me for years how much they missed the carnival and now I’m elected I intend to do something about it. I’ve been spearheading a team which has been working on this for some months, so watch this space.
In Parliament I spearheaded the successful campaign against the Government, the Home Office and the UK Border Agency, urging them to rethink visa regulations for language students, so reputable English schools, like the ones we have locally, which are such a great source of income to Eastbourne, are not tarnished with the same brush as bogus language schools, and unfairly punished.
As well as having some recent good news with my involvement in the campaign to reverse the decision to scrap cheques by 2018 continuing their use for as long as customers need them, we were also very lucky to secure funding for the Eastbourne Academy. The school, in great need of investment, secured £10.2 million for a new building project. This took many months of lobbying the Education Secretary Michael Gove MP, who very much regrets the day I obtained his mobile number. Sussex Downs is a partner of the Academy and was also key to the success, as was the county council. It was good for us all to work together as team for the good of the school.
Locally, you will no doubt be aware of the challenges we have been having with the DGH. This treasured institution where so many hard working local people live, many of whom I know personally, does not deserve this. However, it must be said the hospital board has chosen to revisit maternity which is disappointing. I am monitoring the progress of the ongoing maternity review very closely, and the Trust is well aware it will have an almighty fight on if it tries to reduce provision in Eastbourne and Hastings to just a single site.
The age old issue of the Eastbourne to London train service also rumbles on. I have met with the Rail Minister, the managing director of Southern Rail and numerous other directors at the company. The simple fact is that there is a franchise agreement in place until 2015 and the Secretary of State for Transport has said he will not be intervening in any current franchise agreements. I am working hard behind the scenes to ensure that by 2015 we have an alternative and commercially viable plan in place to convince both the Government and the rail company that implementing a faster service between London and Eastbourne makes financial sense.
Some of you may also be aware that I have been spearheading the cross party campaign to get the Government to reverse its decision to exclude RE from the recently introduced English Baccalaureate. I recently handed in a petition to Downing Street with 140,000 signatures, as well as tabling a motion in Parliament, which has been signed by 112 MPs across all political parties, making it one of the most popular motions this Parliament. I will continue to lobby the Government to revisit the decision.
These are just a few of the highlights from a busy year. Each day since the General Election I have been offered the great privilege to represent you and I am so grateful for all the invites to local events which I do my very best to attend. Working for you, serving the town day in, day out, means I have the best job in the world. And to quote Barnaby Bee – “To me, it’s all about putting the buzz back into Eastbourne.