Jobs boost for pier blaze town

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The Independent Online

The seaside town devastated by a suspected arson attack on its pier was buoyed today by an announcement that 800 new jobs are to be created by the Saga Group.

The firm, which specialises in products and services for over-50s, will become the largest private sector employer in Hastings, East Sussex, when it opens a call centre in the resort in the New Year.

Recruitment is under way for contact centre positions in sales, customer services and claims, plus support roles in IT, property management, cleaning and catering.

The staff will be employed by Saga's expanding insurance business and be based in a new office development at Priory Square in the town centre.

Civic leaders applauded the news, saying it came as a tonic following the suspected arson attack this week which wrecked Hastings' Victorian pier.

Up to 95% of the structure, owned by Panama-registered company Ravenclaw and closed since 2006, was damaged in the blaze which saw flames leap 40ft into the sky.

Two men, aged 18 and 19 and both from nearby St Leonards, were arrested on the seafront shortly afterwards and freed on police bail until November 2.

Speaking of the jobs announcement, councillor Jeremy Birch, Hastings Borough Council's Labour leader, said today: "This is the best possible news for the town.

"After the tragedy of the pier fire, the announcement of substantial new job opportunities is lifting spirits locally.

"We really welcome Saga, we welcome the jobs and the boost they will bring to the local economy."

Roger Ramsden, chief executive of Saga Insurance, said: "Hastings is an ideal location.

"Priory Square is in the town centre and has good public transport links and the building will provide a great working environment.

"We aim to attract, train and keep the best talent that Hastings has to offer."