It’s been a little over a month since it was first announced that I would be the new deputy leader of the Borough Council, replacing my friend Alan Shuttleworth, who has served in the role since 2018. I thought you might like to hear a little of what I‘ve been up to.
The timing is fortuitous as Eastbourne’s has just begun to see the reopening of many of our high street shops as lockdown is eased and a week away from many restaurants and hospitality venues allowed to reopen. With my other hat on, as Chief Executive of Your Eastbourne Business Improvement District (BID), it links-in with the councils efforts to ensure our town comes out as successfully as possible.
For those who may not know, BID is a nationwide programme aimed at securing a successful long term future for Town Centres across the UK. Eastbourne joined over 300 other towns to become a BID in September 2019. Consequently, one of my first duties as Deputy Leader has been to bring together partners across all sectors to prepare a recovery plan for Eastbourne as lockdown begins to be unwound by the government. This work is perhaps the most important role I’ve ever undertaken and everyone continues to give countless hours to make sure of its success.
We know that it is absolutely crucial that the Council take all the necessary steps to get this lockdown exit right and having David Tutt's support as Leader and my Lib Dem colleagues is a real plus for which I am very grateful.
Our objectives are clear. We must continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID 19, protect businesses and jobs for the future, restore confidence in our high street and, ultimately, protect and support our local community.
This week, thanks to the partnership working of those organisations, I’m proud to say that local businesses have a supply of PPE equipment, enabling them to buy low cost supplies and support the local economy whilst also protecting their customers. Already 30 businesses have placed orders with a buying consortium established by the Eastbourne Hospitality Association; supported by my Devonshire Ward colleagues Ward Budget.
Meanwhile speaking to retailers in the town, it is also clear that the numbers of customers shopping in our town has been - what I have been describing as - cautiously positive. Businesses are taking their duties to prevent the spread seriously and we know we must work together to ensure that Eastbourne and East Sussex do not attract similar infection rates from other areas.
I won’t gloss over how difficult all this is but your Lib Dem Council is being extremely proactive 24/7.
Our voluntary community has also been highly proactive in their response - often being the frontline to those in the most need. I was delighted to speak to over 40 representatives of these groups, and to hear exactly what their needs are for the immediate future. They have faced challenges and will continue to do so, for sure. Overwhelmingly though they reported back positively as to how they’ve adapted to this unprecedented situation. They flagged that by working together more and learning how to operate somewhat differently, they have managed - at times - to even improve their services to our community. This is very encouraging.
Our ability to be creative and embrace necessary changes will, I am sure, ensure our town is better able to recover.
Naturally this crucial recovery work relies on a strong, proactive Council and I want to take this opportunity to tell you that your Council, from officers to elected representatives, have been working day and night to ensure we are all focussed on one common goal: For the good of Eastbourne.
Take care now, and all the very best to you and your family.
Deputy Leader, Eastbourne Borough Council