The recent Index of Multiple Deprivation has seen Hastings slip from 31 to 19 (out of 352) in the rank of most deprived districts. The two largest components in deciding this overall rank are income and employment, areas that Hastings continues to perform badly in and the two areas that I am focussing on, to move Hastings back up that rank.
Just as David Cameron stresses that "Britain is open for business", I aspire to be the enterprise Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye. Whilst he is doing everything he can to drum up new trade or business for Britain, I am doing the equivalent for Hastings.
The good news is that since becoming Member of Parliament we have had Saga, who are currently expanding, set up a new office in the town, creating up to 800 new jobs for local people. This has been an excellent boost for the town and I hope other private companies will follow their lead.
As well as encouraging existing businesses to grow, we also need to see more businesses set up. We need to offer people the opportunity to realise their ambitions and talents by bravely becoming entrepreneurs themselves.
In January the Government announced that it will be expanding the New Enterprise Allowance, to give unemployed people £2,000 to help set up their own business guided by registered mentors. This initiative will be rolled out in the autumn and I welcome the national expansion of the plan, to encourage entrepreneurs all over the country.
Last autumn, I started a similar privately sponsored initiative to give unemployed people in Hastings a chance to get funding to help set up their own business. I was approached by Baroness Stedman-Scott, of Tomorrow’s People, the fantastic charity that help the long term unemployed. She had received £5,000 from the Women of the Year Foundation and they wanted to help an unemployed woman, with a business idea by giving them the £5,000 to help set up their business. So we set up a competition – Tomorrow’s Business Builders – and we got more funding, this time from PricewaterhouseCoopers, so that we could run another category for a young person aged 17-24.
Applications from local people were strong and a shortlist of 14 people benefited from business mentoring by Ten Sixty Six Enterprise, a subsidiary of our local CBI.
On April 1st an independent judging panel reviewed six final business plans and nominated Rachel Heavens as the winner of the Tomorrow’s Business Builder Award for Women Entrepreneurs for her idea to set up as a children's book and card illustrator (she is pictured, right, with me, Baroness Stedman-Scott and Gayle Morrison of the Women of the Year Foundation). Natalie Hassan won the Young Entrepreneurs Award for her business plan to set up a nanny agency. All final six candidates received accreditation for the Institute of Leadership Management, through further sponsorship from 8 local businesses.
Natalie and Rachel were both awarded £5,000 each to help them set up their businesses, at an awards ceremony in Hastings earlier in the month. I am hopeful that they will both go on to be successful business women, through the opportunity that this competition has given them.
We are already starting to plan the competition for next year, and we want it to be bigger and better with more categories and more entrepreneurs. I firmly believe that by encouraging and supporting new businesses to set up and develop, Hastings can start to move in the right direction in the rank of deprivation. There are hundreds of entrepreneurs in Hastings, but we just need to find them and give them the opportunity that they deserve.
It's about opportunity, motivation and a little bit of help over the starting line. That is what I will be doing once more next year through our Tomorrow Business Builders Awards.