I would like to say that I am writing my column this week from the comfort of a fireside table in a newly reopened pub, rather than taking my chances in a rain soaked beer-garden given the late winter weather conditions we are still experiencing. Alas I have not had a chance to pop in for a pint of Harvey’s yet but plan to do so at the weekend to toast the latest easing of lockdown after holding my first face to face constituency surgery again in Shoreham since last year. As usual if you would like an appointment just ring the constituency office.
In Westminster this week we are coming to the end of a six-day debate on the Queen’s Speech announced at last week’s State Opening. As I mentioned in my column last week there are many good pieces of legislation to keep us busy in the new Parliamentary session and many have been welcomed on all sides. However it is noticeable that there have been universal concerns expressed by everybody from Theresa May to Keir Starmer about proposed planning reforms that whilst helping unlock land for much needed new housebuilding would dilute local control over making sure it is in the right place and is sustainable. I agree and I sense some interesting arguments coming down the line as we need to get this right.
I have been catching up with a number of constituency businesses to see how they are coping with the slow emergence from lockdown and it was interesting to hear from members of the Sussex Federation of small businesses at a Question Time event I spoke at last week. Interestingly a number of hospitality businesses in particular have struggled to recruit staff ahead of opening up, which is in strict contrast with the increase in universal credit claimants that the local DWP centre in Worthing has seen. Meanwhile the DWP has recruited 35 new work coaches in Worthing and has opened a digital hub specifically to help young people who are looking for a job and advice on training, apprenticeships and the successful kick-Start scheme for example.
To help local businesses and to hear their experiences of how they are coming out of lockdown I will be holding a virtual breakfast ‘Bouncing back from COVID’ summit on June 11th with representatives from the DWP, Worthing & Adur Councils and Employment Minister Mims Davies MP. This is a free event open to all businesses in Adur and Worthing and further details are available on my website. If you would like to register for a place please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org