This Monday 12th April sees the much longed for re-opening of major parts of our local economy including non-essential retail shops, gyms and leisure centres. Pubs and hospitality venues will be able to welcome back old and new customers, serving them food and drinks outside. Many of us are looking forward to a badly needed hair cut and even perhaps, a bit of colour to spruce up for Spring!
We also see ‘self-contained’ holiday accommodation opening, which means that holiday lets, campsites and caravan parks where all facilities, including using the bathroom, catering, sleeping and indoor lobbies and corridors for entry and exit are restricted for use by a single household or support bubble.
Whilst this next step in the Government’s roadmap to re-opening our economy remains subject to some social distancing restrictions, there is no doubt that we are all in desperate need of this next stage, not just economically but also for our social and mental wellbeing. I have been very concerned about a number of our local residents who have sometimes been overwhelmed with the lack of social interaction or emotional and physical support they are really missing, especially when this support has helped them cope with caring for dependent loved ones. Our local volunteer and church groups (and individuals) have been amazing with telephone calls, helping with shopping and so on, but the relentless responsibility for many has proved emotionally and physically exhausting.
I have also been concerned for many of our local businesses, especially those dependent on tourism, including hospitality and independent retail shops. I am grateful for the financial support the Government has given to individuals and businesses across Hastings and Rye in this very challenging past year, but know that for many, this does not scratch the surface. This is why I am urging everyone in Hastings and Rye to actively support our local businesses when they re-open on Monday. We are so lucky that our towns, villages, beaches and countryside offer a wholly unique experience from that special gift, art, interiors or knick-knack shopping, to food, fish, beer, coffee, ice cream, hot chocolate and wine in our farm shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes - all available with a dose of Sussex twinkle and charm, and stunning views wherever we are.
Local businesses are the backbone of our local economy and shopping, eating and drinking locally helps support our local businesses, families and communities. It has been said that for every £10 spent in a local independent shop means £50 back into our local economy; every pound spent locally multiplies itself throughout the community and strengthens our economic base. Our local businesses are significant creators of jobs in Hastings and Rye and by spending our money locally, we can all help sustain these much-needed jobs in the coming months. By supporting our local businesses, we are also helping to build stronger communities across Hastings and Rye.
We also cannot ignore the environmental impact of shopping, eating and drinking locally; buying local is better for the environment by reducing packaging, fuel and transport costs, for example, meaning that many local businesses will have a smaller carbon footprint than larger, national companies.
Over the past few months your MPs, councillors, officers, businesses and business support organisations (such as Locate East Sussex, Tourism South East and South East Local Enterprise Partnership – ‘Team East Sussex’) have been working together to plan our local economic recovery. One of the first, most important steps we can all do to help re-build our local economy and save jobs is to love where we live, and think local and act local.