SUSSEX is being taken for granted and overlooked when it comes to public funding.

That is the warning from political leaders as the county celebrates its tenth annual Sussex Day.

Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, who helped set up Sussex Day in 2007, called for the county to be recognised for contributing so much to the economy and warned the Government: “Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

He said: “It is always assumed that Sussex is a wealthy county, which largely it is.

“However, there are pockets of real deprivation. I see that here in Crawley and there are areas in Brighton, Littlehampton and Hastings.

“We also have a lot of pressure in Sussex with migration. Not only from within the UK but also across the EU and the rest of the world.

“One of the other big problems is the pressure on our infrastructure. You only have to look at the ongoing issue with the railway.”

Sussex is one of the key contributors to the country’s wealth and regularly posts above average statistics with regards to employment and taxation rates.

Figures from Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership record the county’s annual economic output as £36.6 billion, 2.2 per cent of the UK total.

The employment rate is better than the national average at 75. 5 per cent (compared with 73.5 per cent) as is the unemployment rate at 3.9 per cent (compared with 5.4 per cent nationally).

This is in a large part thanks to Sussex’s 68,700 businesses, providing 648,000 jobs.

Mr Smith MP said the county should be recognised for its contribution to economic growth, adding “to use a metaphor, don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg”.

Warren Morgan, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, described Sussex as the powerhouse of the South East.

He agreed that we have lacked investment, particularly when it comes to our crumbling rail network. He said: “We haven’t had the investment we have seen elsewhere such as in Crossrail and HS2 and it is clearly needed if our economy is to grow.

“We are bidding for devolution of powers to a city region that extends along the Sussex coast and across the Downs, focusing on jobs, skills and homes. We are far more than a dormitory for London, we have thriving biomedical, digital, engineering, retail, education, financial, creative and tourist industries in the city region and the county.

“We need the Government behind us, investing in us, enabling us to ensure everyone benefits from the county’s prosperity.”

Ian Steedman, the man behind Sussex Day, agreed that Sussex is overlooked and argued that much of the public money goes to the north, leaving the county to try and sort out its own problems.

He said: “The Government certainly overlooks Sussex. Take something like the Seafront arches, I think if they were up north they would have been sorted by now.

“All the money is going to the likes of Leeds and Manchester and we are left with nothing.”


LIKE with many good things, it started with a letter to The Argus.

It was 2006 and Ian Steedman had decided there should be a designated day for residents to celebrate all that’s good about their home county.

On the eve of the tenth annual Sussex Day, Today is Sussex Day and the 67-year-old recalled the moment he came up with the idea.

He said: “I am incredibly proud of my county and I know a lot of other people are as well. But there was nothing that brought us all together, from Rye in the east to Chichester in the west.”

He sat down at his desk in Worthing and typed away, setting out his proposal before sending it to our letters editor.

It was published on April 7, 2006, and the rest, as they say, is history.

He said: “The response I had was incredible.

“I had more than 80 letters with only one person not in support.

“I then contacted various councils and it was taken up by Henry Smith, MP for Crawley.”

Today the county’s flag will fly from West and East Sussex county council buildings and for the first time from Brighton and Hove City Council buildings.

Council leader Warren Morgan praised the annual celebration as an opportunity to recognise our home county.

He said: “I’ve lived in Sussex all my life but wherever you come from this is a day to celebrate where we live, the Weald and the Downs, the city and the sea.

“It’s a day perhaps to buy some Sussex produce, visit one of our county’s excellent pubs and remember that ‘you may tell them all that we stand or fall, for Sussex By The Sea’.”

There will be events across the county including a chance to learn about Chichester’s history at the city’s Edes House in West Street between 11am and 3pm.

At the Arundel Wetland Centre in Mill Road there will be a series of events celebrating the county’s wildlife and at Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery there will be a tour looking at the best of Sussex artists from 11am.

Also in Eastbourne, the Redoubt Fortress will be free of charge for the day so visitors can learn about the county’s military history.

But what is it about Sussex that makes the county so special?

For Mr Steedman it is the people – and in particular their distinct heritage.

Perhaps the county’s most defining year was 1066 when William the Conqueror landed near Hastings and defeated King Harold.

The Normans swamped the country, changing the look, feel and make up of England for ever.

But here in Sussex there was resistance. While the Normans obtained the positions of power, the working classes were made up of what was left of the Saxon people – and they weren’t going to be pushed around.

Mr Steedman said: “The Normans treated those Saxons pretty badly but there was a strength and a will. I think that remains today.

“You will find it in those born and bred in Sussex, there is that same Saxon mentality, that idea that they won’t be pushed around and [like the Sussex county motto] won’t be druv.

“For example, I’ve had a few health problems and I’m pretty battered at the moment but I’m not not giving to give in. It is that same attitude.

“Sussex is the real England, it is the oldest county in the country and I think that should be recognised and celebrated.”

Parish, district, city and county councils are leading the way with events and exhibitions today.

But even if you are unable to attend an official gathering, the day’s founder has urged residents to enjoy the occasion in their own way.

This could be anything from enjoying a stroll along the Downs to opening a glass of Sussex sparkling wine or enjoying a game of stoolball.

Tomorrow Mr Steedman will look on with pride as the Sussex flag flies from the county’s public buildings.

But – in perhaps another trait found in the people of Sussex – he plays down his part in its success.

He said: “It is a lovely feeling but I can’t take the credit. I came up with the idea and people can enjoy it and help it to grow.

“It is good to take a step back now and just enjoy the day.”