Chamber Hustings Meeting

Following on from the announcement of the General Election taking place on Thursday 4th July, Hastings Chamber put on a Hustings meeting, giving members the chance to hear from and engage with the candidates standing for the Hastings & Rye constituency.

The meeting took place on Thursday 27th June, a week prior to the election, and was attended by four candidates: Nicholas Davies, Helena Dollimore, Sally-Ann Hart, and Becca Horn.

During this meeting members had the chance to hear from each candidate about their main priorities for Hastings. (Click on the name below to expand)

Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative:

“The Prime Minister pledged to half inflation from its previous 11.1%, it is now 2%, and his plan might seem boring, but boring strengthens and stabilises the economy. Businesses in Hastings and Rye tell me that they want stability and certainty, so they can plan, grow, and invest. As a reminder, under the Conservatives, there are 1.1 million more businesses in the UK since 2010, 4 million new jobs including 2 million more women in jobs which is 800 jobs a day generated by you. We’re delivering the biggest tax cuts in modern history for businesses worth £11 billion. We’ve cut business rates to support small businesses, and I successfully campaigned to extend the retail, hospitality, and leisure relief for our many different hospitality businesses. We’ve supported many of you through COVID, with grants, bounce back loans, and furlough, and we’ve got access to Start Up Loans, the Help to Grow scheme, UK Export Finance and increased the VAT threshold – all measures to help you grow. We know that businesses like yours are the key to wealth generation, jobs, and economic growth. Everything we need to provide crucial funding for our public services, but despite their new found passion for wealth creation, we all know that Labour can’t help but putting their hand in your pocket and dipping into your hard-earned profits. They can’t help imposing more regulation on you. We still don’t know what Labour’s tax plans will be. Rachel Reeves hasn’t ruled out immediate tax hikes, and this isn’t the stability that British businesses need. Whilst many of you here might not agree with Brexit, despite some teething troubles, there is no denying it is working. The facts are the facts. We are now the fourth biggest exporter globally, have the joint fastest growth rates in the G7, and the highest manufacturing productivity growth in the G7. But of course, there’s still more to do with the further deregulation to make it simpler for businesses right here in Hastings & Rye to do business abroad – something Starmer’s Labour will not do. They want a reset on Europe, but what will this look like? Labour wants to impose French style union rules on your businesses, costing businesses £41billion or £1,250 per employee every year. Not the stability that you need for wealth creation and economic growth. Ultimately, it’s what Labour is not saying that we will need to worry about. Will they tax you more? Entrepreneurs like you deserve to be rewarded, not penalised for taking risks and investing into your own businesses. We will not bring in Union laws or raise corporation tax, and as I’ve said, I successfully campaigned for business rates and create team relief for hospitality retail and tourism businesses. I continue to campaign to cut VAT for SMEs, a review of the VAT thresholds and reform of business rates. I want to also ensure that our young people get the skills they need to become a normal workforce. I’m partnering with our schools, colleges and businesses, attending a Careers Fair, connecting our high-tech employers with young people. I chaired the discussions on developing college courses that meet industry needs here in Hastings, and I’m working to help develop a university technical college policy, and more apprenticeships again to ensure businesses have access to young people with the skills that match your needs. I continue to campaign against the level crossing for a steam railway across the A21 and Robertsbridge, which will strangle our industrial businesses, and I continue to campaign for infrastructure improvements, more reliable transport, well-maintained roads, and high-speed internet rollout. I successfully secured the £2.5 million to complete plans for the gateway, to unlock the space for business growth and development, and ease traffic on The Ridge. I’m working on getting that fast train via Ashford. All in just four and a half years, a term which served us both Brexit and the Pandemic. Those who know me know how hard I work, and with the help from my team, I go above and beyond to help you all. Why? Because like you, I believe in hard work and aspiration. I’ve lived here for 30 years, my kids were born here, and like you, I want the absolute best for this area. And I tell you what: if we end up with a Starmer super majority, our business community won’t have time for our next MP to learn the ropes. We’ll need a strong, experienced voice in Parliament to continue these campaigns, hit the ground running, and stand up for us here in Hastings & Rye, and the stability of our business community needs across Hastings & Rye.”

Nicholas Davies, Communist:

“I’m standing for the Communist Party because I want to give people something to vote for. Our 12-point manifesto is to transform people’s lives. Take the housing crisis for example: immediate rent controls and the massive house building programme would help solve that. The NHS is on its knees because of underfunding, expensive outsourcing, and trivialisation. We need doctors, nurses, midwives, radiographers, the list is huge. We should be training them and paying them all a decent wage to retain them. We need to introduce bursaries for nursing and scrap the tuition fees – we can’t have a health service if we can’t afford to train them and load them up with debt they can’t pay. We need public transport, the Royal Mail, water and energy companies back in public ownership and democratic control. We’ve all seen with Southern Water in the recent months – they’ve fixed the pipeline that they’ve had buried for 50 years and didn’t even know where it was. We need to have a stable environment. We need to have reliable people when it comes to a crisis and have a guaranteed supply. We know from direct experience that Southern Water failed us miserably. Climatization is expensive and it doesn’t work. We’ve had many companies that carried on taking dividends, and how do we carry on trusting them? We can introduce fines, we can slap them on the wrists, give them punishments but they will just carry-on taking money out, money which needs to be invested into our infrastructure. We need to have money invested into our roads, and we don’t have to increase taxes to do that. We have a government that is led by a sovereign Parliament. We built the NHS into the institution it was and now basically speaking, it’s suffering because we’ve introduced profit into it and have subcontracted out large chunks, and people get money out of it at the expense of patients. They can’t profit without it. We’ve got a shadow health secretary who is apparently taking donations from American health insurance companies – this is before he has even got into office. He’s already taking kickbacks and he’s not the only one accused of doing that. A lot of the people in Hastings and elsewhere face a deep crisis with stagnant wages, declining living standards, and spiralling public services. Our democratic rights and civil liberties are threatened. We’re supporting genocides against Palestinians and wars in Ukraine instead of investing in this country. We’re spending money exporting weapons abroad to kill people and then wonder why they turn up on our doorstep as refugees. Then we complain about them because they are here and apparently drain our resources, but we wouldn’t be able to man the NHS if we didn’t have them doing the jobs that no one else wants to do. We all need to invest in education and put more money into the public service.”

Helena Dollimore, Labour:

“I’m proud to be the Labour and Co-Operative candidate for our area at the upcoming General Election, and I’m particularly proud of that because I was born and brought up locally and I went to local state schools. It’s an immense privilege for someone who’s gone through our local state education system to be standing here in front of you representing the Labour Party at this election. It’s also a privilege to be speaking to you as the business community because you do so much to bring investment into our area and do so much to support the local community – creating jobs and providing that key growth that our area needs. I’ve spent most of my career working as an aid worker around the world in international development and that has shown me the power of politics and how the Government can change lives. After working for Save the Children, I worked at Unilever because I really wanted to get that different perspective. The charity sector offers a huge amount but also business is so important in changing lives, just in the way charities and businesses, government and politics can. I was proud to be appointed as one of the youngest Directors at Unilever, and that is something I would bring to my experience if I was elected as our MP. Understanding business, understanding the challenges for you, and understanding what we need to bring more investment to our area from the Government, and how that can help is absolutely key. What we also need is a Member of Parliament who is going to stand up for this area and put us on the map. Be the voice of the communities, work with businesses, understand the challenges, and go and bang on the doors of Cabinet ministers. Whether we are lucky enough to form a Labour government, or whoever the ministers are, my job as your MP is to listen to you, hear what you say, and make change happen so that you can thrive locally as businesses. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been an extremely tough time for our businesses, particularly our smaller businesses. Of course we’ve had difficult world events: the pandemic, the war in Ukraine. We’ve also had very difficult events locally – a lot caused by Southern Water. But we’ve also had 14 years of economic mismanagement under this Conservative government. We’ve had growth through the floor, that means taxes have been up at its highest level in 70 years and we have the highest tax burden since the Second World War. What we’ve also had is constant chop and change, no stability. Changes with every budget. Liz Truss crashing the economy. People and businesses across Hastings and Rye are still paying the price of that disastrous mini budget that our own Conservative MP backed at the time. What Labour wants to do, first and foremost if we are lucky enough to form the next government, is bring stability and actually after what we’ve seen after the last 14 years, I believe stability is change. Giving you that certainty as businesses, giving you that understanding of what we are going to do, and what we want to do going forward, so that you can plan in your businesses along those lines. Our core mission is to grow the economy, and I’ll will talk a bit more about how we want to do that, but I want to start by saying, contrary to what you may have heard from others, in Rachel Reeves as our Shadow Chancellor, I hope the next and the first women chancellor if we do win the election next week, that you will have a very experience economist that will underpin everything, with tough fiscal rules. Everything that is in our manifesto, we have said how exactly we are going to aim for. We are not going to promise to do things in this election that there isn’t the money for, and everything in this election we are being upfront and clear about. We have been very clear about the taxes we would raise, and about the taxes we wouldn’t raise. We are going to keep corporation tax capped as it is at the moment, we are not going to raise taxes on working people, we are not going to raise income tax, VAT or National Insurance. Everything we say that we are going to do in our manifesto will be fully funded. What we are not going to do is what we have still got the Conservatives doing – they haven’t learnt their lessons from the Liz Truss mini budget, they are still setting out in this election £71 billion of unfunded commitments. We’ve seen how that ends when you promise tax cuts that you can’t deliver, you crash the economy, creating chaos for residents and businesses and it’s irresponsible. I also know as local businesses that you depend on local public services that are thriving. We want to create the investment that our economy needs, we are going to switch on Great British energy and our National Wealth fund – that’s going to generate the investment that we need – as well as taking advantage of the transition to Net Zero which would bring benefits for businesses here, and as our MP, it’ll be my job to make sure it does. We also need to reform the economy, there are changes we want to make for small businesses, we are going to open business rates so that if you are a high street business you have a level playing field with the online giants – it’s not fair that they aren’t paying business rates at the moment. We also want to make changes to the planning system, to local education, to skills, to childcare, that will all help businesses to thrive. And we want to tackle late payments with tough new legislation because we know it’s not fair and we know it’s happening to small businesses. With me, you will have a MP who will listen to our businesses, who will work with you to help our community thrive and will always be that voice we need in Westminster, and with many stakeholders like Southern Water and East Sussex County Council.”

Becca Horn, Green:

“A little bit about me, I am a freelancer who has worked in the gig economy for most of my life. I started as an actor, I still do some of that creative performing, producing. I am also a local yoga teacher. I have worked for many years, and being an actor, I have done a lot of waiting on tables too, so I know the hospitality industry well, and particularly in Hastings and Rye, it’s super important down here. That is part of why I have become involved. When I first moved down to Hastings, I fell in love with the place. I felt like it had such an incredible sense of community – there are festivals, arts and heritage. But we also have this underlying level of poverty and deprivation that stunts our growth here. It’s incredible to think that despite all of that, the community still rallies around and comes together. When things like COVID happened, we had people delivering meals to their neighbours, When the Southern Water outage happened, we had people rallying around and deliver water to those who weren’t being supplied. The community spirit is what had really inspired me to get involved and fight. Imagine a Hastings Town Centre where there are no empty premises, where there are people sitting out in front of cafes and restaurants, listening to music, where shops are open, and people are staying and playing. That’s the vision I want to create for Hastings and for Rye. But in order to do that, we have got to invest in our desperately underfunded public services. People can’t get a house; they can’t afford the rental market here. It is in absolute crisis. I was late this morning, I waited for three buses that were due to come but didn’t. So, our public transport is a major issue, people can’t get to work. We need to support our public transport and we need to support our health services to make sure that people are fit to work, to feel happy, and be healthy. We have a vision where we want to invest £40 million into a green, economic transition, because over all of this, the shadow plan over all of this is climate change. We know that small and medium sized businesses haven’t had the assurance for central government that they need to begin the transition to zero carbon. The Government is not going anywhere near or fast enough to get us there so the Green party will be investing every year for the green economic transition. I’m looking forward to talking about more specific questions.”

With the General Election fast approaching, stay informed and find out more about the candidates in your area by visiting: Who can I vote for in my area? – BBC News

Thank you to our members who joined us at this meeting, as well as the Hastings Centre for hosting us, and the candidates for taking the time to listen to businesses concerns and answer questions. To find out more about our upcoming meetings, head over to our Events page!