One of Britain’s most familiar political figures has told how Fleetwood has been “ignored for far too long” by central Government.
William Hague, the former Tory leader who has just announced he will retire from Parliament in May, visited Fleetwood yesterday with one of the town’s Parliamentary candidiates Eric Ollerenshaw.
And Mr Hague, whose current role is First Secretary of State and also Leader of the House of Commons, said the town has previously been ignored by governments.
But he said new funding had helped to transform parts of Fleetwood since he last visited, when he was leader of the opposition in the late 1990s.
The MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, was making a flying visit to the town, the latest in a string of high-profile politicians to visit the port in the run-up to the upcoming elections.
He spoke to a number of supportive businesses and nipped into an ex-servicemen’s club – but he had little time to sample an ice cream, fish and chips, a latte or even one of the pints he is famed to have once enjoyed.
Mr Hague, accompanied by Mr Ollerenshaw, told the Gazette: “The Coastal Communities Fund has provided huge help in re-building the sea wall here and supporting the improvements on Fleetwood’s promenade.
“Other money has come in for the fish park.
“People in Fleetwood are telling me good things and it all adds up to a changing town which in the past had been ignored by central government for far too long.”
Craig McOmish, who runs two busy ice cream kiosks on the seafront, welcomed Mr Hague and pointed out how Government investment had transformed Fleetwood’s seafront thanks to the £1.5m Five For Fleetwood scheme.
Mr McOmish also told the Secretary of State: “The relief on business rates from the Government really helps small businesses like ours, it’s been a real shot in the arm.”
At the Granada Fish Bar, proprietor Steve Lynton welcomed the visitors and had his picture taken with Mr Hague – specially for the “celebrity” wall in his diner. The group moved on to Pablo’s cafe, where party supporter, proprietor Linda Townend, praised efforts to try and improve Fleetwood’s transport infrastructure.
There was just time for Mr Hague to also call in at the King’s Own Old Comrades Club and Fleetwood Market before he left.
Afterwards Mr Ollerenshaw joked: “It’s a huge boost having William here, even though he’s a Yorkshireman!
“It demonstrates that this Government recognises the importance of Coastal Communities investment in towns like Fleetwood and how much it is needed.”
Lancaster and Fleetwood is seen as one of the key marginal seats in the upcoming general election on May 7. Cat Smith (Labour), Chris Coats (Green), Matthew Atkins (Ukip) and Robin Long (Lib Dem) are among the candidates.