CAROLINE ANSELL MP: Global pressures, and a visit to the talking newspapers

Eastbourne Business Breakfast was on Friday – the first since I was re-elected as your MP in 2019. It was good to meet up with business leaders to discuss issues facing our town.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:38 pm

At the event, I spoke of my concerns about the cost of living ahead of this winter especially around gas prices and inflation. These are global issues as the world starts to recover from the pandemic but they are very real for many families in our town.

The Government has set up a £500m hardship fund for English councils to give to the most vulnerable and there is a variety of help available with fuel costs. If you need help, please get in touch with the council as soon as possible.

I also spoke about the significant government investment to come to our town, not least through a potential £100 million Defra project on sea defences. I mentioned important legislation going through Parliament this autumn too. The Nationality and Borders Bill is especially key following widespread concern about the numbers of small boat crossings – some of which made land at Sovereign Harbour.

The Government’s Free Speech Bill is another important piece of legislation this autumn. It seeks to safeguard the space for the honest, open and robust debate on which our democratic society is founded and where different opinion can be heard and respected. The appalling intimidation and harassment of Sussex University academic, Kathleen Stock, is a case in point and illustrates why this is so important and so necessary.

In other constituency visits, I was delighted to meet the volunteer team at local charity Eastbourne Talking Newspapers based at St Mary’s Parsonage in Old Town. They are behind the outreach service which makes recordings of local news for those who are visually impaired.

I went down to their recording space where articles drawn from last week’s Herald – including this column! - lay in readiness. The letters page, I was told, was always an interesting challenge and the team clearly has a lot of fun, bloopers and all. Recordings go out on memory sticks to around 80 members via a free service provided by Royal Mail each week. Thank you to all the people who are involved in this really important service.

However, I was surprised to learn that there isn’t an audio description service at our fantastically refurbished Congress Theatre. One for me to take up, I think.

While I was there, I was also keen to learn from the team how I could go about making an audio recording of my latest ‘reporting back’ booklet which has been winging its way across Eastbourne and Willingdon to nearly 50,000 homes. If you need an audio version, please call my office on 01323 409 000 to join a mailing list for this new service that is coming soon.

Elsewhere in town, work will really start in earnest on our new special school. It’s near to St Wilfrid’s Hospice and I can’t wait to see Summerdown School open its doors. These new places are very important and this is a project I worked hard to support nearly five years ago, so I’m delighted to see progress.