Driving Hastings forward 01424 205481

Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, will be holding a summit to enable members of the public to hear from politicians and industry leaders about plans to improve and upgrade local transport services.

Roads Minister, Andrew Jones MP, will be this year’s keynote speaker and he will discuss investment in the area’s roads, including the A21. Attendees will also be updated by Highways England on the progress of A21 improvement works.

Recently, several constituents have contacted Amber about their experiences of service issues with Southern and Southeastern trains. This event will provide an opportunity to hear directly from and to ask questions to the Chief Executive Officer of GTR – the company which operates the Southern franchise – and the Managing Directors of both Southern and Southeastern.

In addition, a representative of Network Rail will discuss proposals to electrify the Marshlink for High Speed Rail, and the Managing Director of Stagecoach South East will set out plans to improve local bus services.

Amber commented: “With this summit, I am looking to build on the successes of past years which brought us major steps forward with campaigns to develop our area’s rail services. This event will add to the work of councils, businesses, MPs, transport campaigners and members of the public who have pushed for better infrastructure and transport provision in our area – from the major projects of dualling the A21 and campaigning for High Speed Rail, to the improvements which can be made to our everyday bus and train journeys.”

The summit which has been running for three years will be held at Sussex Coast College, Hastings on Friday 18 March 2016 and it will begin at 10:00am, with arrivals welcome from 9:30am and the summit’s conclusion by 12:00pm.

If you would like to attend, you can register online at www.amberrudd.co.uk,  email amber.rudd.mp@parliament.uk, or call 01424 716756.

With new official statistics from the ONS showing another 89,000 businesses were formed in the UK during the past year, it’s clear that Britain is enjoying an enterprise revival. Despite the daily challenges of sustaining cash flow, keeping up with regulation and ensuring adequate protection of assets small businesses are increasingly leading the charge in the economic development stakes.

The great news for Hastings is that this spirit of resurgence is not only a national phenomenon but a local one too. Recently revealed as among the top five areas within the South East of England for consistent growth in company formations since 2011, Hastings is ready and open for business. Here we take a closer look at just what is on offer in this vibrant commercial town.

Access to innovation

Innovation is often hailed as the life blood of business, particularly for those in the early stages of development. One of the many benefits of basing your company in Hastings is having easy access to a structure of innovation support. The facilities and services offered by Hastings Innovation Centre and the Creative Media Centre provide a plug in and play option for businesses which want to get off the ground and grow.

Creating a professional first impression is so important in a busy marketplace and that is exactly what can be delivered by the infrastructure services associated with the centre. Added to that are the many networking and clustering opportunities presented by being sited with other ambitious start ups as well as established business players.

The recent announcement that Hastings has been awarded assisted area status under one of the government’s flagship initiatives can only add to the innovation friendly economic environment. With special interventions in the form of factory developments and job creation programmes, further opportunities for support with research and development activities will no doubt emerge as the initiative moves forward.

Access to skills

Activating business growth strategies can be dependent on having a talented workforce to support expansion. Employers in the Hastings area have the opportunity to build that workforce and develop their employees as part of the local ‘Own Grown’ initiative. Success over the last two years in particular has seen this scheme attract widespread acclaim including as winner of the Community Project of the Year 2014 at the 1066 Community Awards.

Representing a real partnership between private, public and voluntary bodies as well as schools, colleges and training organisations, Own Grown offers the chance for employers and young people to meet and engage in a variety of ways. One option is to offer an Apprenticeship Scheme.

This involves employing an individual aged 16 or over and developing their skills to support your business- all with funding support from government. A local engineering company, Marshall-Tufflex, has found the scheme so beneficial in feeding its engineering skills pipeline that it is now considering extending apprenticeships into other areas of the business. Sussex Coast College, a key partner in the initiative, also offers pre-employment training and bespoke, flexible provision for existing staff as part of its enterprise, employment and skills agenda.

Access to transport links

Another plus point in Hastings’ favour is its connectability to other commercial hubs. Positioned on the Kent/Sussex border the town has already got well developed road links to cities such as London and Brighton.

It is also an excellent base for those who need access to seaports such as Dover and to Eurostar services. Airline access is also good with Lydd and Marston airports delivering on European and freight services and Gatwick providing international links.

When it comes to train links, while these are already well developed, Hastings is now hoping to become home to a high speed rail link to London. The subject of a recent economic assessment report, this link could reduce the journey time to the nation’s capital to only 68 minutes. Expected to ‘supercharge’ the local economy bringing in £19 million of benefit and upwards of 400 jobs as part of the associated regeneration by 2028, the link could contribute as much as £354 million in overall benefit by 2044. Local councillors are understandably delighted by the recent findings and are urging government and Network Rail to press on with the link extension.

With all these attributes it is clear to see why Hastings is already hitting the high notes of business success, and can offer an attractive proposition to new and expanding organisations looking for the ideal base.

Article from Gemma Cairns

The new Passenger Services Directors are setting out plans as the train company Southern joins the Govia Thameslink franchise.

Southern and Gatwick Express retained their identity when they became part of the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise (GTR) on the 26th July.

David Scorey, the Passenger Services Director for Southern Mainline and Coast, said: “One of my key priorities is to improve the reliability of our services. With the new timetable in place our passengers should already have noticed a change for the better, and we will work hard to continue this progress.”

The GTR franchise will see the introduction of three new train fleets, 10,000 additional peak-time seats into London, a £50 million investment in station improvements and a transformation in train travel in 2018 when it is completed by the Thameslink Programme.

There are more improvements planned for the franchise and to find more detail about what can be expected click here.

“Many passengers already use ticketing smartcards and I aim to build on this, as it’s not just more convenient, but also helps us to understand passengers’ travel needs,” said Alex Foulds, the Passenger Services Director for Southern Metro. “I’ll also make sure that they have clean and well-maintained stations and trains, with good facilities and shops.”

The investment in GTR means that there is funding available for more CCTV, toilet refurbishments, retail facilities, help points and car park improvements. In addition, there are plans for increased motorcycle storage and improved transport integration.

The new franchise holds 22% of all UK passengers, employs 6,500 people, and has £1.3 billion annual revenue and a £50 million investment to enhance all 239 stations. There will also be an upgrade to trains, with 1,398 new train carriages and additional morning peak seats into London.

Angie Doll, the Passenger Services Director for Gatwick Express, said: “My overall priority is to improve passengers’ experience of travelling on Gatwick Express from start to finish, so we’re working much more closely with Gatwick Airport to make sure our services are integrated.”

GTR release a twice-yearly customer report called Connections. Readers of this will be able to keep track of whether GTR has met its targets and commitments and also read about GTR’s plans for the future. Customers will also be able to read about the improvements that the franchise has made according to the feedback they got from the public.

Connections can be downloaded here.

More information can be found on the Southern railway website and the Gatwick Express website.

The chief executive for Airbus has said that it does not plan on pulling manufacturing out of the UK if the country leaves the European Union (EU). With the vote steadily getting closer, Fabrice Bregier said that the aircraft manufacturer is dedicated to its 16,000 employees that are based in the UK. In addition to this, he said that British factories would not be relocated.

Airbus is the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturer and employs 6,000 people at its site at Broughton in north Wales. It assembles the wings for all the Airbus aircraft. In Filton, which is near Bristol, several thousand more people are employed and design wings and test landing gear.

Despite what Bregier has said, last month the UK chief executive Paul Kahn stated that if the UK voted to leave the EU, the company would have to reconsider future investment in the UK. Once the referendum is over, a judgment would be made about what the consequences would be for the competitiveness of the business, Bregier said on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, ministers tabled an amendment to the EU referendum bill and decided that the plebiscite on 5th May would be ruled out. This would have been the same day as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assembly elections as well as local elections.

As a result of this decision, it is more likely that the referendum will take place either next autumn or during 2017. This all depends on the prime minister’s ability to negotiate concessions from his European counterparts.

Many want the referendum to be over and dealt with and businesses have repeated concerns about the level of uncertainty caused by the timing of the referendum. It could potentially harm the economy as investment decisions are delayed as a result. Kahn stated last month that the UK must compete for international investment.

Also see: Airbus warns on UK referendum vote

Negative inflation has turned positive this month because transport costs have helped the UK inflation rate to increase. Inflation stood at -0.1% in April but recently rose to 0.1% in May, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that transport, in particular air fares, are the biggest contribution to the rise. However, although this was the main factor, other reasons are taken into account such as the rise in food and petrol prices during May. Despite these rises, the prices were still lower than a year ago.

When CPI turned negative in April, this was the first time it had done so since 1960. The food and fuel prices have had an effect on the rise in inflation and pulled down the rate by about 0.5 percentage, however this was less pronounced than the month before because the prices then had a negative effect of 0.7 percentage points.

Mark Carney, who is the Bank of England governor, said that he expects UK inflation to continue to be low in the short term. The Bank also expects near-zero inflation, which will help the UK economy by improving the spending power of households.

Business in Hastings spoke to Councillor John Hodges about the Hastings bus cuts that will affect the town and surrounding areas. Here’s what he had to say about the issue and what people can do to help.

Councillor John Hodges

Almost certainly you will have heard by now of the significant loss of bus services proposed for the Hastings area. The proposal is currently out for consultation until September 28th, but as in similar exercises my concerns are around the media that are used as channels of communication, will they reach everyone who is affected ?, and do they clearly indicate the consequences to those residents and businesses whose future will be affected ?. I fear not, and as such I will be addressing the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the various Resident’s Associations, the Senior’s Forum, disabled groups, and anyone else who will be affected including colleges, interfaith forums, the voluntary sector and various groups of small traders.

This is not a negative reaction to change because I believe that there is another way that can address the needs of all the stakeholders that would be affected by these proposals.  Quite simply why should we allow private operators to “cherry pick” the profitable bus routes, whilst the public purse picks up that which is deemed as commercially not viable.

A Voluntary Partnership Agreement would ensure that it is private gain from the profitable routes that is used to subsidise those services that place a heavy burden on the county’s budget. This can be made to work and the note below expresses my fears over this proposal if it is allowed to go forward without considering an alternative solution.

Let everyone have the opportunity to fully understand the implications of these draconian cuts to public transport, without understanding what value does consultation have ?. Please share your knowledge with the elderly or the infirm, who rely on public transport, but cannot always access sources of information especially the internet. One day public transport, trains and buses, will provide a real alternative to the motor car, its consequential and expensive problems of parking, and deliver a green and truly effective means of facilitating everyday life.

But it will never become a service to humanity all the time it is driven only on the basis of profit, remember this should be a true service just like the NHS and the Post Office, services should be this nation’s birthright not pawns in a political game of monopoly. Basically our arguments revolve around the fact that this consultation is based upon “these are the proposals for a new bus service” unaccompanied by the analysis of who,  (resident or business) is affected. Many people will not be able to interpret the complexities of a network, many people won’t even have access to the internet. Businesses need consulting, as do resident’s associations, community hubs, friends of hospitals, every person who has come to rely upon a public transport service for their life style. Ordinary people, jobs, businesses, public servants, those who need a hospital, are just regarded as so much collateral damage on the way to delivering this unwanted and flawed philosophy of austerity. Our approach is to break down these barriers of denial that enable this administration in Lewes to keep reality at bay.

I am deeply concerned that 60% of all, significant cuts affect Hastings, once again this is disproportionate. An economy in convalescence cannot stand more restrictions placed upon it. As a Town we cannot afford the loss of footfall that strives to keep our evening economy afloat. Housebound wives, mothers, and carers must not be denied the opportunity of employment at weekends and evenings, this proposal is divisive as it clearly affects only the have nots, whilst those who have, once again escape unscathed.

How about the Government’s own flexible hours working directive, introduced just recently to recognise that not everyone can work around a day time job, or the convenience of the bus operators, this could strangle a progressive piece of legislation at birth. Other authorities are considering effective partnership working, why can’t East Sussex (the Newcastle on Tyne case study is available ). This is the one way sustainability will work, ESCC’s proposal is just cut and slash, fares go up………….next round of cut and slash and further fare increases………..until there is no effective public transport scheme left. A strategic solution is desperately needed that puts people first.

More about buses           

hastings-bus-cutsCouncillor John hodges thought that you would be interested in hearing a bit more from one of the actual meetings that are now underway across the Town regarding the Hastings bus cuts. Here it is:

During the last week of the month, in the company of Sarah Owen and Cllr Andy Batsford I addressed a large “congregation” gathered at Christ Church Blacklands, in response to the consultation on proposed cuts to the bus service in the Hastings’ area.
Such a significant gathering surely indicated the broad spectrum of the community affected by this draconian proposal, and their deep rooted concerns towards its consequences. I learnt of the many different ways in which the loss of a bus service will affect individuals within a community that has a strong bias towards the elderly. It is a community that doesn’t boast a high private car ownership, and one that seeks only the flexibility to be connected by public transport with the Town Centre and their local hospital, just the essentials of life.

How can they be denied so little? especially when there is another way of delivering the outcomes that ESCC seek. Let them look towards a working partnership with the bus operators where “cherry picking” of only the profitable routes is discounted in favour of an operation that accepts that no company has an inalienable right to only good business. The rough and the smooth must be taken together, and any financial burden shared between the public and the private purses, in parallel with routes being analysed to understand if there is a better way of organising the network, whilst the essential service is maintained.

Our intention is to build a case against these proposals, where every aspect of the implications for the general public is considered, the views of every individual who comes forward with the loss that they will suffer, and the implications for each business, service, and institution, together with their employees will be placed before ESCC.

The arguments for these proposals are based in economics, therefore I would ask every one whose business or life will suffer some form of financial loss as a consequence of these cuts to let me know such that I can put together an economic case in response. This will show the iniquity of expecting a town, whose own financial health, which can most charitably be described as being in economic convalescence, to absorb the needless government driven cuts that could be found in another direction.

I would ask you all to respond to the ESCC consultation form found at https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/organisationsbuschanges  Alternatively sign one of our petitions. Please let me know if you are struggling with the consultation, as I have made the point to ESCC in the council chamber that such a document is meaningless without an explanation regarding the consequences to both resident and business.

It is also disproportionate in its effect upon Hastings with 60% of the most damaging cuts involving buses that serve this Town. And remember there is another way, it is called a true working partnership, and as I write it is being explored in other towns in the UK faced with a similar problem………..why not Hastings !!

This update was sent in by Councillor John Hodges.


If you will be effected by the Hastings bus cuts then let us know you thoughts on our Facebook page here.

Sustrans, the national charity championing sustainable travel, has launched a new project to help small businesses based in East Sussex reduce the cost of business travel.


Reduce business travel costs with Sustrans

The Smarter Small Business Travel project offers a range of free* services delivered by a dedicated Sustrans travel advisor. The advisor can offer anything from advice or short courses to a tailored programme including a review of current travel habits, the development of a travel plan, staff engagement activities and monitoring and evaluation tools to review progress made.

What support is on offer for your business?

  • Site visit and audit to establish transport-related costs and potential for on-site improvements
  • One-to-one support with a specialist travel adviser to develop a travel plan for your business to help monitor the money saving measures. For example, we can advise on fleet vehicles, technology and skills to support smart working and how to promote active travel to staff.
  • Delivery of practical activities such as group walks and rides, cycle training, technology skills workshops and information events
  • Invitations to business networking events and opportunities to share best-practice
  • Signposting to grants to enable smarter ways of working and travelling, and signposting to local providers and tools to support our work
  • On-line resources and web-based challenges between participating businesses
  • Monitoring and evaluation, including baseline and follow-up audits and surveys
  • Recruitment of, and training and support for, a workplace sustainable transport champion

Who can take part and why is it free?

The project is open to independent East Sussex based businesses with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £35 million. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and East Sussex County Council, who are keen to see small businesses improve their profitability and reduce their carbon footprint.

How can you get involved?

For more information or an informal chat about the project, please contact either: