Hastings Observer Column 7 December

Isn’t it fantastic to see Christmas decorations up in our towns and the shops around us? The debate rages on in my house as to when the Christmas tree goes up – the earlier the better, I always think! Luckily, we have a number of fantastic local businesses which can yield wonderful presents - particularly important for last minute shoppers like me!

Last weekend, I spent a great deal of time enjoying my local high street in Hastings and exploring our Christmas Fairs. One of the wonderful things about our town is how many local and independent small businesses we have. From butchers to bakers and candlestick makers, we really do have something for everyone – and all within walking distance!

Last Saturday was Small Business Saturday, an opportunity for our local businesses to showcase their products and services to the local community as well as for us to appreciate their input into our local economy. I enjoyed a number of Christmas Fairs last weekend, including the St Michael’s Christmas Fayre, the Christmas Flea Market at the Isabel Blackman Centre and the Christmas Curiosity Bazaar at Sussex Coast College. This weekend, we have the Rye Christmas Fair and the Pett Christmas Fair to look forward to.

I am pleased that the Department for Work and Pensions have actively been supporting and encouraging business start-ups through the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA). The NEA has supported the launch of around 120,000 businesses by offering Governmental financial support for up to six months, access to a business mentor and the opportunity for a loan of up to £25,000 to help with start-up costs. This initiative has not only created more jobs but also led to the boosting of wages.

It is good news that the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Budget that the NEA fund would be extended beyond March 2019 to around £40 million. We need a Government that backs business, which is why I am pleased that since 2010 we have over 500 new local businesses in our towns.

I hope that you are able to spend some time enjoying our fantastic variety of local small businesses - perhaps you will catch me about in the town doing some of my Christmas shopping. And of course making sure my family’s Christmas decorations are up good and early!