I wasn’t sure what to expect of a ‘hybrid’ digital and physical conference, but it exceeded my expectations and was hallmarked by real energy, purpose and direction.
It also proved to be an excellent opportunity to meet with representatives from groups and organisations that make a difference in Eastbourne and Willingdon and across the whole of the UK. I spent time with the Trussell Trust to talk about Universal Benefit changes and the Alzheimer’s Society where I met Julie, who has early onset dementia; her testimony was so very powerful.
Constituents from across the town had previously been in touch to ask me to visit a number of stands to engage with issues they are concerned about and I was pleased to do just that. Among others, that included Cancer Research on diagnosis and treatment times, Guide Dogs to hear about their campaign on hazardous unregulated e-scooters on our pavements. And following up from my time with them in the summer, I also met Scope at their fringe event, ‘levelling up employment prospects for all’ and will be working with them to open up more local opportunities for people here with disabilities.
During my time at the conference, I spoke to Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse about Safer Streets, which is particularly sensitive for us in light of an Eastbourne resident being charged with the murder of teacher Sabina Nessa. I was very moved to see the candlelit images from the vigil held on the seafront on Tuesday and thank the organisers for creating an opportunity for people to come together.
Eastbourne, Hastings and Brighton have just been awarded nearly £1 million to underpin community safety. This includes support for our highly valued street pastors who give such sterling support to those out and about on a night in the town centre.
Continuing the law-and-order theme, I met with representatives from the Police Federation to discuss training and recruitment. This is a difficult time for the police in the light of the Sarah Everard murder where a serving police officer used his position to lure this young woman to her death. I welcome the Government’s independent inquiry into how this man was allowed to be in the Metropolitan Police. Policing is based on trust and in this moment, that trust has been severely weakened by what has happened. We need answers about vetting procedures, not least for the sake of the excellent police officers we have in service.
I very much enjoyed the Prime Minister’s speech to the conference. It recognised the challenges we face post-Brexit but he was confident in taking the country forward, levelling up, investing in skills, green technologies and productivity.
An important part of my job here in Eastbourne and Willingdon is to assist in that work to see that no-one is left behind, that good well-paid work is available locally and that training and education opportunities abound for those who need them.
Take care and keep in touch.