CAROLINE ANSELL: What a year 2015 was

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001

Rather like Christmas, December 31 can be the best and worst of times and resolutions? Not since the 90s!

Maybe it’s my Scottish heritage but I still look with hope to the New Year and the chance to make at least your own world over. I will have a tumultuous year to look back on, one that has truly been life-changing for me and my family, and Hogmanay will also bring that sense of a first, clean, bright page to write on.

I have a huge energy and optimism for 2016 but what a year 2015 was.

2015 marked significant investment in our town which will secure opportunities in this generation and the next; work on the new Arndale has begun in earnest, the funding for the ambitious Devonshire project has been agreed, and Eastbourne as a Christmas destination has enjoyed a successful debut year.

There were significant developments too at our local hospital when it went into special measures and unpopular leaders resigned. I have spent a good deal of time at the DGH since and I am absolutely committed to seeing it come through. A massive thank you to our dedicated staff whose good care was our saving grace and duly recognised by inspectors.

One of the big news stories was the sale of our much loved pier. Have more column inches been dedicated to this subject and its colourful new owner than almost any other?! I know Mr Gulzar has plans and I will be meeting with him and his team in the next week to give my support wherever I can and to ensure there is no doubt that, notwithstanding the fact that he is now the proud custodian of this iconic structure, all of Eastbourne has a vested interest!

One particular highlight of this last year for me was the privilege of instituting the Ian Gow schools public speaking competition in memory of the man, former Eastbourne MP, who served so faithfully, who is remembered so affectionately to this day and whose life was so cruelly taken by the provisional IRA 25 years ago.

2015 has seen a busy parliamentary season with emotive talk on fox hunting, difficult votes on assisted dying, much work behind the scenes on proposed tax credit changes but all eclipsed by the refugee crisis. The image of the tiny body of three-year-old Aryan Kurdi washed up on the beach will surely never be forgotten. I am to visit refugee camps in Greece with Save the Children in the very near future..

So what does 2016 have in store? Will we see a historic referendum on our membership of the European Union?

The National Living Wage will start in April meaning no-one aged 25 or over will earn less than £7.20 an hour; signs are positive that the economy will continue to perform well with the deficit being further reduced, more people in work, greater investment possible in our NHS and protection for the police spending.

Locally I am looking forward to launching new initiatives including ‘Team Eastbourne’ (more on that over the next few weeks) and progressing a host of projects to boost the local economy and open up new opportunities.

And on that note, may I take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!