WHOEVER is elected as Gosport’s MP on December 12 will certainly have a fight on their hands.
While the past few years have seen funding come in for a number of infrastructure projects, such as the Stubbington Bypass, issues such as employment, high-profile crime and housing remain key issues for a would-be MP to tackle.
Jobs in the town are few and far between, falling behind the labour market in the rest of the south coast.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2017 Gosport’s job density stood at 0.51 jobs per working-age resident, lower than the national average of 0.86.
A report from Solent LEP said: ‘A high proportion of residents out commute from the borough to work elsewhere.
‘These out-commuters could form an important component of the local labour market if sufficient quality and suitably paid jobs were available locally to match their skills.’
Bringing more jobs into the area will be a crucial area of scrutiny, whether that comes through public work on new infrastructure or working for the government to encourage incentives for businesses.
This employment struggle has been felt across the town, with Citizens Advice reporting 3,197 new or unique clients in the 2018/19 financial year, with a total of more than 11,000 cases.
As the need for more jobs becomes more urgent, shops are being forced to close in Gosport High Street – with entrepreneurs citing business rates as a persistent issue.
Paul Potter of the recently closed Reflex Records told The News that business rates have led to the high street reaching a ‘tipping point’ believing that it’s too little, too late to save the town centre.
When announcing the closure, he said: ‘The unspoken truth is that Amazon doesn’t pay tax and can afford to undercut the high street – independent traders just can’t fight against that.’
Nationally, the media has dubbed this the ‘Brexit election’ and Gosport’s attention on this issue will be no different.
A safe Conservative seat since its creation in 1974, it was held by Sir Peter Viggers until 2010 when Caroline Dinenage took his place.
As such, the Brexit Party is not standing in the town, with voters instead choosing between Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green candidates.
But for many residents, the biggest focus of this election will be how these representatives plan to tackle crime in the town.
While the number of overall crimes reported has not risen significantly, incidents have become much more prolific – particularly in the past few months.
From teenagers standing on police cars at Hardway to stores at Brockhurst Gate Retail Park going into lockdown and strangers attempting to enter people’s cars, residents and businesses alike have voiced concerns about the audacity of criminals in the town.
A further 156 police officers have been confirmed for Hampshire by the Home Office, but it is unknown how many of those will be deployed in Gosport.
Voters will be hoping that their next MP will successfully lobby for a stronger police presence in the town, especially given the new extended opening hours of Gosport’s police front desk at the Town Hall.