Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey MP took to the streets of Eastbourne yesterday (Tuesday, August 24).
The visit kicked off a nationwide tour of ‘blue wall seats’ where there is a small gap in numbers between Lib Dem and Conservative voters.
The day included visiting small businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, and Eastbourne Borough Council.
Councillor for Hampden Park Josh Babarinde, who accompanied Mr Davey, said, “I’ve been working with Ed around developing our business policy, focussing on small businesses and the self-employed especially.
“I wanted to bring Ed to Eastbourne to come and see some of our small businesses in action. He’s had a tour of our High Street, met Christina Ewbank from the Chamber of Commerce, and spoken to Stephen Holt from Eastbourne’s Business Improvement District to find out more about how local businesses are bouncing back and our plans for the future of the High Street.”
A tasty section of the day involved going to Gianni’s Italian restaurant and ice cream parlour in Terminus Road.
Mr Davey got to make his own cherry ice cream and then serve it to the locals whilst talking to owners Gianni and Aleksandra Gatta about their business.
Gianni and Aleksandra said the visit was ‘a huge compliment’.
Mr Davey said, “It’s been an incredibly warm welcome. It’s been lovely to make ice cream here and what’s clear is there’s a real partnership between the Lib Dem run council and local businesses – I wish we saw more of that across the country.
“Here we’ve got a council that’s helping regenerate Eastbourne and from going around other towns I haven’t seen one quite so vibrant.”
In terms of the covid pandemic, Mr Davey said, “Eastbourne and other coastal towns have been hit really hard and I feel really sorry for the businesses here and indeed the council.”
Despite the struggle businesses have been faced with, Mr Davey said what’s clear is that ‘the council and the business community are working together for the covid recovering and with real success’.
Mr Davey also shared his hopes for the levelling up fund Eastbourne could be receiving.
He said, “I think the levelling up fund is a great idea. It’s great to see the Chamber of Commerce working with the council to level up and improve things locally.
“The fact it would involve training and upskilling young people seems precisely the right thing to do.
“There are communities in Eastbourne that are vulnerable and deprived – that’s why it’s important for the council in Eastbourne to put their hands up and say we have a plan as well, it’s a modest plan and we just want our fair share.
“If the government were to respond positively it would be a massive step forward and improve visitor numbers, more people would come to the town which revives the economy and creates jobs – it would be such a virtuous circle and the government ought to back it.”
Finally, Mr Davey praised Eastbourne’s work to defeat climate change.
He said, “I wish every council was like Eastbourne because if every council had a record of environment like Eastbourne, then I think we could be in a much stronger place as a country.
“What they’ve been doing with solar power is really impressive. I just wish more councils would look at what can be done.
“I love coming to Eastbourne because it’s great to see a council doing the right thing.”