It was very sad to read some elements of the text from the contribution by Sally-Ann Hart in last weeks House of Commons debate on the theme of the Queens Speech. Clearly an MP represents their constituents and should want the best for the people they represent. By the same token the same people who they represent who voted for them also voted for their Councillors. Whilst there is no way that local voters can decide who is the leader of the Council anymore than they can decide who is the Prime Minister, they do get to vote for both a Councillor and an MP. In the case of many settings the voting goes even further as outside of unitary authorities the votes include the County Council, the Borough or District Council and in a number of settings also the Parish or Town Council. So although only a small number of people in Hastings can elect Kim Forward, the consistent decision by local people to vote for a Labour majority is very clear. Of course the election of a Conservative MP is not entirely due to the voters in Hastings. As she makes clear in her speech, Sally-Ann Hart is the MP for Hastings and Rye. This means that she has a wide range of constituents that include people from outside of Hastings. However her speech was very focused on Labour and it was sadly very critical of the Hastings Council. Sally-Ann Hart needs to pay attention to the fact that the people in Hastings and their conditions are impacted by the Borough Council, the County Council and the Government. It is no point standing up and criticising the other two elements if your role is to work to support the same people who voted for those elements. By the same token it really makes no sense to stand up and tell the Government who need to do a great deal more to help your constituents, that the fault is entirely due to the Borough or County Council as this then reduces the prospect of the Government from setting out to help the people. It is clearly vital for Sally-Ann and Kim to meet and try to find some ground to work together on. Below is the part of this speech which is very disturbing in the context of the residents of Hastings. Another element is that some of the themes that Sally-Ann has referred to are elements that the County Council needs to do and not what the Borough Council is able to do. Here is a piece from a local newspaper that introduces Kim to the local people who didn’t vote for her and perhaps Sally-Ann needs to read this too. Kim represents the Gensing area of Hastings and her role is Leader of the Council and Strategy and Partnership Working Portfolio Holder.
The focus on education and skills is hugely welcome, especially for my constituents in beautiful Hastings and Rye. This amazing constituency, my home, is located in the affluent south-east but suffers from some of the lowest levels of deprivation in the country. Hastings is slipping further down the levels of deprivation, and is now the 13th most deprived out of 317 local authorities, based on the 2019 indices of multiple deprivation. In East Sussex, nine out of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods are located in Hastings and St Leonards. Baird ward, for example, is still among the most deprived half a per cent. in the whole country. It makes me angry to see these levels of deprivation becoming increasingly worse, after years of a Labour-controlled borough council. I am utterly delighted that in last week’s local elections the residents of Baird elected Conservatives at both borough and county elections. Our residents deserve better, so we will give them better, because we believe in levelling up, not driving down.
This Conservative Government are committed to developing opportunities for everyone at every place across the country, to fulfil their potential, to excel. As such, I was proud to stand on a manifesto commitment to level up, boosting jobs, driving growth and innovation, increasing opportunity for everyone, and ensuring that everyone has access to excellent public services, regardless of where they live.
I would like to take this stand for parts of the south- east such as Hastings and Rye, which must not be overlooked when it comes to levelling up. Yes, it is absolutely right that those in parts of our country neglected by Labour politicians and taken for granted for generations are given the opportunities and investment, but we cannot overlook parts of the south-east that are also in desperate need of investment in education and skills, transport infrastructure, connectivity and job opportunities. We simply must not neglect nor take for granted our core support; if we do, we are no better than the Labour party.