2022 – our MP’s view

No one can deny that 2022 has been a very challenging year politically, socially and economically, but I thought I might highlight some of the positives that have happened across Hastings and Rye over the past year.

As some readers might know, I entered into the national political fray because of my role as a local Justice of the Peace (JP). Working as a JP in both the family proceedings and adult criminal courts in Hastings, I could see first-hand how important it is to get children and families right, and how important a good education is to enable people to have choices.

Many parents need the right support at the right time to help them adequately parent their children – this is a fact of life, not a judgment on these parents. Early intervention and prevention and proper, sustained support for parents are fundamental to strong, stable families, communities and society as a whole. As a society, we need to place greater value on family life and the role of the family unit.

When I was elected to Parliament, I worked with colleagues in championing the Strengthening Families Manifesto and Family Hubs model, both nationally and locally, with East Sussex County Council (ESCC), which is the responsible authority for Children’s Services. A year ago, ESCC submitted its bid for the Family Hubs funding, and in March 2022 we found out that the bid was successful.

Alison Jeffrey, director of Children’s Services at ESCC, must take huge credit for her vision of family hubs and the immense work she has done to ensure that we have the best services available locally. Family hubs are a one-stop shop where families can access important services, making it easier for them to get the support they need. They are for families with children of all ages but have a great Start for Life offer at their core.

The programme will fund a network of Family Hubs, Start for Life and family help services, including breast feeding services, parenting programmes and parent-infant mental health support across East Sussex. I am currently lobbying ministers to ensure that ESCC is one of the handful of local authorities that will be trailblazers for the programme and awarded funds to start delivering services earlier than anticipated.

The Government also increased funding into its Supporting Families programme and ESCC received £1.5 million for the Supporting Families Programme 2022/23, which provides targeted interventions for vulnerable families with complex interconnected issues including unemployment, poor school attendance, domestic abuse, crime and anti-social behaviour and at-risk children.

It is a programme which delivers real results.

In addition to the funding for schools announced in the autumn – £4.4 billion over the next two years to protect schools from rising costs – as well as the boost in school budgets per pupil, the Holiday Activity and Food Programmes across Hastings and Rye and the extra catch-up funding for school children, I was also pleased that earlier in the year, East Sussex was designated an Education Investment Area (EIA), with Hastings a Priority Education Investment Area, building on the Hastings Opportunity Area funding.

EIAs receive targeted intensive investment in areas where school outcomes are weakest, including retention payments to help schools keep the best teachers and new reading, writing and maths achievement targets. Along with my East Sussex MP colleagues, we fight hard to ensure that levelling up delivers for our local residents. I continue to fight for extra investment in education in Hastings and Rye – coastal communities need targeted support to ensure that our children and young people have the opportunities in order to unleash their potential.

Of course, education is not only about learning and skills, and I was delighted to support a private members bill, the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Act 2022. Good career guidance is vital, showing young people, whatever their family or social background, the options open to them, helping them make the right choices, and setting them on the path to a rewarding future.

We saw the opening of a new Job Centre Plus in Hastings Town Centre in January 2022, with funding provided by the Government as part of its “Plan for Jobs”. The new centre provides much needed support to local jobseekers as well as employers.

Skills, education and families are priorities that this Government has shown it is committed to and I will continue to champion all these for the residents and businesses of Hastings and Rye.

We are all feeling the bite of the rising food and energy costs. I know this situation is really tough for many local residents and it is important that the Government is honest with the public about the causes behind these pressures, as well as about the limited levers it has at its disposal to tackle them. Where such levers exist, it is critical that the Government uses them to best effect, and I have been constant in my lobbying of both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to this end.

Earlier this year, we saw support targeted at both low- and middle-income households, including a £150 council tax rebate for people in properties in bands A to D. Later in the year, as the effects of the war in Ukraine bit us harder, local residents and businesses have been helped with the cost of living through a number of Government measures including protecting the triple lock on pensions; local households saving on average £900 off energy bills through the Energy Price Guarantee; and the cutting of National Insurance for 30 million people across the UK thus putting £330 back into their pockets. We have also seen the National Living Wage boosted by £1,600 per annum – the largest ever increase. Local businesses, voluntary and public sector organisations are also being supported by the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

Protecting our environment has continued to be be a priority of mine this year, particularly as regards water quality and pollution. Whilst the Environment Act 2021 is a significant step in the right direction in empowering ministers to better hold water companies to account, we needed to step up the pace of this. Working with colleagues we pushed ministers to publish the new “Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan” earlier than planned.

This Plan includes a requirement for water companies – including Southern Water – to significantly reduce and improve the quality of all storm overflows discharging into or near bathing waters. It is important that I work with Southern Water on the issue of water pollution, and I am pleased that the company has set up a dedicated Task Force to deal with the issue of Combined Sewer Overflows and reduce their impact on our sea and rivers by 80% by 2023.

Southern Water is one of the six water companies which have come together to develop a Water Resources South East (WRSE) plan for 2025 to 2075. This involves the six water companies who supply the south east, including Southern Water, working together to secure future water supplies whilst also supporting and enabling economic growth as well as protecting and improving our shared environment. I am very happy to support this endeavour.

As a member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), we came up with a manifesto published in November, detailing a number of recommendations to Government to restore the health of our rivers, waterways and sea – “Changing Course: A manifesto for our rivers, seas and waterways’”

We have already had two wins; firstly, that money from fines handed out to water companies that pollute our rivers and seas will be re-invested in schemes that benefit our natural environment rather than go into Treasury coffers and secondly, that there will be a public consultation on whether water companies should be statutory consultees on planning applications.

As a member of CEN, I also worked with two other colleagues to secure the introduction of a Natural History GCSE, which was announced by the Education Secretary in Spring last year. The announcement formed a part of the DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy launch.

Young people locally and across the UK will benefit from this new GCSE as it will enable them to explore the world by learning about organisms and environments, environmental and sustainability issues, and gain a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them.

I helped establish the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Ocean and was pleased to be elected its Chair. This APPG is in partnership with the National Oceanography Centre and it will provide a unified and more effective voice to raise ocean-related matters with all those stakeholders who are in a position to make a positive difference. We published our first Parliamentary inquiry report on blue carbon and ocean-based solutions to climate change in December – “The Ocean: Turning the tide on climate change”. This report outlines several key recommendations to the Government and is worth a read!

I cannot finish this piece without mentioning the families and individuals in Rye and the surrounding villages who have openly welcomed Ukrainian refugees into their homes and lives – offering much needed support. Local people have provided a light in the darkness to Ukrainians and this has been awe-inspiring to witness.

We have so much to be positive about here in Hastings and Rye. 2023 will be a bumpy ride, but if we maintain our positive attitude, continue to provide help to those most in need, and give our very best effort to each other, we will overcome these bumps. These challenges are inevitable but being defeated by these challenges is optional.

Image Credits: Chris Lawson .

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  1. After 12 years of Conservative rule, that feels like an awfully long list of sticking plasters… But it’s no wonder they’re being hastily applied in the run up to the coming elections, as the Financial Times reported this week that the UK will face the longest and deepest recession in the G7. Which feels a little more serious than what Mrs Hart trivialises as inconsequential “bumps”… (I’m all for boosting morale, but let’s not insult people’s intelligence.)
    But setting aside our economic woes, the broader ‘state of the nation’ picture reveals, well, a right state…. The Government’s called a grudging truce with Europe, but ideologically the Conservative right always needs to be at war, so they’ve found new enemies. They’re brawling with train drivers, bullying nurses, gagging protestors and making it harder for the poorest, youngest and most marginalised to vote. All these bogeymen are the alleged enemies of ‘hard-working families’, the mythical Conservative kinfolk… Little does it occur to the Government that all these constituencies of people belong to hard-working families! Some of the hardest working families in the country…
    This Conservative faction no longer know what they believe in, they just know reflexively what they fear and what they disdain. And who wants to be led by those dark lights?
    The best thing for us all, including big and small ‘C’ conservatives, is to call time on this aberration and refresh British politics fundamentally. We need new beginnings, and that starts with a new electoral system which takes power back from parties, lobbyists, donors, cronies and think tanks, and gives it back to ordinary people. The Conservatives and Labour desperately want to keep power in their own hands bcs pendulum politics suits them rather nicely… There is only one party that wants to win power to give it back. I’ll let you guess which one that might be!

  2. I see no admission of guilt for the economic disaster her government’s policies have caused over the last year, on top of the problems we were facing anyway. Tory voters should personally all hang their heads in shame for this, and if they must stay with their party, which I would argue is no longer conservative, do the decent thing and stay at home at the next election.

  3. It’s the Reform party for me at the next General election, nodoubt voting for them will let Labour in, but we badly need change from 3 other parties that talk big,and always fail to deliver.

  4. Very long ‘cut and paste’ article from Sally-Anne in full Tigger mode!
    More interesting is what’s missing. Nationally the £74,000,000,000 cost of the mini budget fallout from the painfully ‘elected’ Truss/ Kwarteng dream team, wasting a whole summer when action could have been taken to avoid the coming storms.
    Locally, no mention of her failed efforts to save the important community Rye swimming pool.

  5. What a glowing picture she paints. Perhaps she would like to tell me which universe she inhabits so that I can relocate there.
    I see no mention of the real problems facing this country – a housing crisis, not only in the shortfall of provision of social and low cost housing but in the poor quality of much of the private rental stock and the high rents, plus the high cost of mortgages (thanks to the actions of the previous PM) making it even more impossible for first time buyers. No mention either of the hunger, cold and poverty experienced by many people in this country, thanks to a government who has driven up the cost of living and had to be shamed into providing free meals for children out of term-time. No mention of the huge demand for Food Banks and, more recently, Warm Spaces. No mention of the appalling crisis in the NHS and Social Care, the lack of doctors, nurses, GPs, carers and even medicines due to poor conditions and pay and the failure to ensure adequate training places, bursaries and supply chains. What about the general unrest within the public sector and the current wave of strikes with which her government refuses to engage to try to resolve despite this causing so much ‘inconvenience’ to their economic aims? A debased environment, a crumbling infrastructure, an appallingly callous attitude to the poor and desperate in the rest of the world, disastrous financial decisions for which this country (i.e. us) will be paying for for many many years – shall I go on?
    Of course I may just be perusing the wrong media who must be indulging in a gigantic conspiracy theory to present our country in such negative terms. However if Ms Hart actually bothered to read the letters of concern that her constituents sent her rather than just getting a minion to dispatch a pro-forma reply telling us how much they are spending on this problem and how many more policemen/nurses/doctors/teachers etc are now employed, it might help her to get a clearer view of the real world. Perhaps she should start asking where all this money and person power is going if the problems are getting worse.
    One thing is clear – after 12 years in power the government she represents can’t blame anyone else for this state of affairs, although of course they will!

  6. Meanwhile Rother has just been awarded £19 million from the government’s levelling up fund. Sponsored by MP Huw Merriman. No sign of Rye’s MP being involved.

    And guess where the money is going to be spent? Bexhill.

  7. Money given to Rother district council, as part of the government’s levelling up programme, should be for all of Rother, it’s a disgrace to use it in Bexhill and Sidley only, as for throwing more money at the loss making De La Warr Pavilion, and ignoring Rye’s swimming pool plight.

  8. Some great comments here, showing a grasp on reality that Sally-Ann Hart sadly lacks. Her article is a 1,500-word election advert, containing an attempt to try and persuade voters that she’s earned some sort of parliamentary legacy. She hasn’t. The egregious and harmful actions of the Tory government over the past 13 years, and especially since the Johnson/Truss reigns of chaos, will not be forgotten by the electorate when we (eventually) come to vote. I agree with much of what Guy and Judith say above. I do, however, urge Guy to support the Lib Dems reaching an election pact with Labour so that the progressive vote is not split at the next election! For decades Tories have been winning majorities because the opposition vote is split between two main opposition parties. Sally-Ann has a 4,043 majority and despite the gross incompetence of her party, her own worrying social media ‘faux pas’ and a less-than-stellar performance as an MP, she could still retain the seat. Our current voting system remains entirely unfair. S-AH talks about ‘family hubs’ when people are using food banks and freezing in their homes; it is the Tories who were responsible for slashing local councils’ funding so they have barely enough money to help their residents. We have strikes in schools, hospitals, the ambulance service, the rail system and so on. She speaks about protecting the environment when her party supported the privatisation of water companies which are unleashing floods of raw sewage into the sea. Southern Water is one of the worst offenders, sadly. Privatisation of utilities, part of the ‘creed of greed’, has been shown to prioritise private dividends rather than the public good. Sally-Ann may bang on about establishing an APPG on the Ocean, but what’s the use of that when her government’s policies have severely damaged our marine environment, not to mention our economy? We’re the laughing stock of Europe. All the British fishermen are rueing the day they voted Brexit, as their crucial European export markets have dried up. Sally-Ann’s and the Tories’ legacy is one of almost complete disaster, that’s the reality. The ‘positive attitude’ she refers to is a delusional attempt to cover up the truth. We now have a minister who had to pay £5m to HMRC in unpaid tax and penalties when he himself was Chancellor. If you wrote a farce about this, no one would believe you.

    • Thanks, Frank. I really value your opinion, and I hear you. I think we see a lot of things from the same perspective – not just the Brede Valley!
      The main problem with pacts is that Labour have declared they won’t countenance them. They’re sitting quietly on their hands waiting for the keys to No.10… I also think pacts rob people of choice effectively, which brings me neatly to why I couldn’t consider a pact… If you vote Labour you won’t get Proportional Representation, and to my mind, that’s the only thing that will really change the dynamics of British politics – it means votes have value. It means Democracy works for people, not parties and plutocrats. I know everybody’s sick of change and upheaval, but this is one change we really need. There are many other reasons to vote Lib Dem too, of course, but a vote for Labour as an (understandable) expression of electoral horror at the thought of more of the Boris faction, more ERG, more culture war, will just end up with further decades of pendulum politics, further polarisation and the accompanying short-termism that First Past the Post bakes in. That won’t resolve the problems in farming, primary care, social care, the NHS, growth, productivity, foreign policy, green technology etc etc etc… I can find many points of agreement with people of all political stripes, Frank, but I think a vote for Labour or the Conservatives is a vote for more of the same…

  9. But why should Guys party the Lib dems,stand down to give Labour an easy ride in the next election, maybe it should be the other way around, as over the past years the people of Hastings and Rye, have not been smitten having a Labour mp, in our constituency.

  10. If only political parties could work together, and provide a real strategy, that includes the views and knowledge of local people. it is clear to me reading recent letters how sad our political system has become, not least because it lacks anyone with gravitas from new MP’s in all the parties.
    An opportunity exists in the forthcoming local elections to express an opinion as a wake up call to the main political parties. We have to work together to achieve a better UK in all areas, we cannot afford to keep changing the so called political policies that seemingly have no strategy, costing £billions to us all.


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