CAROLINE ANSELL MP: I enjoyed being in the classroom once again

What a pleasure it was to go back into the classroom to help out with staff shortages due to Covid.

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I spent Friday teaching at Willingdon School and a huge thank you to everyone for the warm welcome that made my day as a supply teacher so rewarding.

It was important to me, as a former teacher, to answer the call of the education secretary to go back into lessons to help ensure our children can stay in school. One of the biggest concerns of the pandemic has been disruption to school life and it will have long-term consequences for some pupils.

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After the school bell on Friday, I was back as the MP and over to Hampden Park to meet people at The Old Bank in Brassey Parade. This organisation offers counselling services, and we had an important talk about what is available and what more we need to provide locally. At the weekend I also held a lively drop by surgery at the Beacon which is a great way for me to listen to ideas, concerns or give help. Other ways are my telephone surgery from the Commons or an in-person appointment at the Town Hall office.

This week in Parliament I had opportunities in the Chamber to ask questions relating to our hospital services and then on air quality and the impact of shipping emissions.

I also got in front of three ministers about other local issues - the Post Office closure in Meads, town planning and the borough council’s challenging financial position.

First, I saw small business minister Paul Scully about postal deliveries in general and the loss of services in Meads Street which will now remain on his watch list. The local PO team is still seeking out a potential new partner and there are live discussions. They have also agreed to my request to revisit providing a temporary outreach service.

Next was housing minister Chris Pincher to discuss planning. TJ Hughes and Debenhams are in the frame for redevelopment, but restoration and conversion is too often not cost effective under a VAT regime which tips the financials in favour of demolition and new build. We need to level up the tax field to protect the heritage landscape and distinctive local character.

Finally, I spoke to local government finance minister Kemi Badenoch who is responsible for Eastbourne Borough Council’s financial rescue plans and we will meet again. This briefing will be particularly important as it has proved difficult for me to get information from the council about its plans.

The council enlisted me to speak favourably to the government over its position last year and I did but going forward, transparency and communication are vital.

I also think when it comes to the council selling off land or properties to fill the shortfall, there should be public engagement. The attempt to sell off the downland in 2016 shows how important this is.

On a very positive note, whilst we still need to be mindful, with covid restrictions on their way out, we can better get about the business of recovery and that brighter future we all want.