We couldn’t let the 950th anniversary celebrations pass without some kind of involvement, so we packed our passports and headed off to Battle Abbey School where we held October’s meeting in the impressive library, one of the oldest parts of the building.
Given the previous weekend’s celebrations about being turned over by the Normans, it was with only the slightest hint of irony our main presentation was on ‘devolution’ and what this might mean for the three southern counties of Surrey, East and West Sussex.
Becky Shaw, Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council, set the scene with an overview of the County, its priority outcomes and economic development strategy that are focuses on driving growth by creating the right environment and infrastructure for businesses; using resources to support local economy; and ensuring people have the right skills to take advantage of the opportunities available.
Incredibly 26 Borough, District and County councils have already agreed in principle to the partnership, along with 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships, East Sussex Fire Authority and South Downs National Park Authority, which is no mean feat in itself.
With an economy larger than either Wales or Greater Manchester, it would be the only devolved power, from the existing or proposed devolved areas, that would be a net contributor to the exchequer, which is seen by them, as a powerful argument.
They see benefits to long term infrastructure strategy for road and rail networks plus the digital infrastructure; action to improve the pace of house building; realising full economic potential for the area and greater engagement with business and skills providers.
Clearly there is a long way to go and government priorities have already changed since the Brexit vote, however, we will continue to keep a close eye on how these proposals develop.
Continuing the theme of collaboration, Stephen Burkes from Sussex Skills Solutions (the joint venture training company between Hastings & Eastbourne Colleges) also attended to provide a helpful update on the Apprenticeships levy coming into effect next year.
To round off we heard from Nick Warren of Christians Against Poverty, with a fascinating account on the excellent work they undertake helping people of all ages and backgrounds who find themselves in financial difficulty.
This month sees our final meeting of the year at the Kino-Teatr on 30th November to which all members and guests are welcome.