The Labour Party Manifesto for the Hastings Borough Council Elections 2016.
This year in Hastings, we’ll be celebrating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Thanks to money invested by Hastings Council and a successful bid to the Arts Council, we’re putting on a major creative cultural festival, building up to the battle anniversary itself in October. But 2016 will be a big year in other ways too. Six years ago, the Council began the process for compulsory purchase of the pier. Thanks to the Pier Trust’s successful Heritage Lottery bid, and money invested by Hastings Council, the £14m project is complete, and opening in April. But that’s not all. The Council’s £1m investment in the abandoned White Rock Baths has enabled The Source to bring this building back into use as a world-class BMX and skateboard arena. And the Council has spent another £200,000 refurbishing Bottle Alley, as well as resurfacing and improving the promenade around the pier. All of which has turned this derelict and abandoned part of the seafront into a lively, thriving attraction once more.
But this is just one part of what the Council has done to improve Hastings – there are also the 700 properties improved through the Grotbusters programme, and 70 long term empty homes brought back into use through our compulsory purchase programme. Two of our parks have achieved a coveted ‘Green Flag’ status, and innovative works carried out by the Council, in conjunction with the Environment Agency and Southern Water, have dramatically improved water quality in Alexandra Park stream, ensuring that Hastings Beach more than meets the new EU bathing water standards.
And there’s been more. We’ve brought £1m of EU money into Hastings to support our fishery through the Fisheries Local Action Group. We’ve run the £2m SUCCESS grants programme for creative and cultural business. We’ve introduced the selective licensing scheme to make sure private rented housing is properly managed. We’ve created new open space at Speckled Wood through our new local plan. We’ve co-ordinated the Own Grown initiative to get over 2,000 young people into training and work experience programmes. And we’ve continued to fund advice and assistance to the most vulnerable people in Hastings through our voluntary sector grants programme, by far the largest in East Sussex.
That’s only a part of it. There is, of course, so much more we could do. With massive cuts in government funding to Councils, that isn’t going to be easy. But we remain ambitious and determined to find ways to keep on funding interventionist, transformational services to regenerate our town. This manifesto shows you how we’re going to achieve that.
Labour Leader of Hastings Borough Council
Click the headings below to expand the sections. You can also download our manifesto.
Please let us know what you think of our plans by contacting us.
[toggle title=”Our Values”]
The policies and initiatives outlined in this manifesto can only cover a small part of what a Council does in its day-to-day activities. But everything we do needs to be governed by a clear set of guiding socialist principles. These are the values we have already adopted to guide what the Council does, and which we will continue to promote, and ensure they’re at the heart of everything the Council does.
- We believe that equality of opportunity is paramount, and that services to local people should be provided in a way that addresses their needs and reasonable expectations, regardless of gender, social class, race, disability, age, culture, sexuality or philosophical beliefs, in as far as such beliefs do not oppress others.
- We believe that the Council should uphold a culture of co-operation, openness, fairness and transparency in all it does, enabling local people to hold us to account and other agencies to work with us.
- We believe that all local people (including employees of the Council) should be entitled to a high standard of education and decent jobs that pay a living wage, where they are treated with dignity, respect and fairness.
- We believe that all local people have a right to a safe, secure, affordable home in an environment that enhances their health, quality of life and access to lifelong learning.
- We believe that the economic regeneration of Hastings should narrow the gap between the most deprived communities and those of the rest of the town, as well as between Hastings and the rest of the South East, and that poorer people should not be excluded from the new opportunities that arise.
[toggle title=”Our Achievements: What we pledged in 2014 and what we’ve done”]
> A more prosperous Hastings:
Bring about the regeneration of Hastings through the six-point regeneration plan for the area.
With new businesses relocating to Hastings, increased prosperity in the town overall, and continuing improvements to the seafront in particular, the regeneration of Hastings continues and has been widely recognised in the national press.
Spearhead the campaign to improve the image of Hastings as an up and coming town.
Through the ‘Famously Hastings’ website, press releases, and hosting journalism visits, we’ve achieved extensive positive coverage for the town, including the Guardian listing Hastings as one of the top 50 places to visit in the world in 2016.
Continue to use culture as a lever for regeneration of the town.
We have just launched a new cultural strategy to promote regeneration, but there have been many other initiatives too, including several annual festivals, the Stade Saturdays free performance programmes, and the SUCCESS grants scheme that distributed £2m to creative and cultural businesses.
Co-ordinate the plans for a nationally significant cultural festival to mark the town’s celebration of the 950th anniversary of 1066.
Our cultural festival ROOT1066 has been launched and we are set to celebrate this autumn – details of the events will be published during the spring and summer.
Promote the town as a major visitor destination.
Against regional trends, we have had an increase in visitor numbers to the town and much positive publicity in the national press.
Continue to work with the Pier Charity to complete the restoration of Hastings Pier.
We have continued to support the Pier Trust and restoration is complete, with the pier officially reopening on May 21st. From the start of the compulsory purchase process by the Council six years ago, this has been a major investment for Hastings Council, with over £1m spent on the CPO and grants to the Pier Trust.
Make the most of the economic potential of the town’s key shop window – the seafront.
There have been many improvements to the seafront including the transformation of the derelict White Rock Baths into a world-class skate and BMX park, the restoration of Bottle Alley, the pier reopening, new sustainable planting, the restored fountain at Pelham roundabout, and the continuing focus on enforcement work to improve seafront properties.
Ensure Hastings fully recognises the importance of being a university town.
The reaction of University of Brighton’s shocking news that they intend to close the Hastings campus demonstrates how well recognised this is – we must now create a new University of Hastings.
Maximise the opportunities to attract more shoppers and more spending power into Hastings.
We have new retailers in Priory Meadow (the centre is now fully let) and improved signage for the town centre makes it easier for visitors to find their way to the main shopping and leisure facilities and to see the route on to the Old Town. St Leonards Town Centre is developing well as a centre for specialist, independent retailers, and the proposal to establish Hastings Town Centre as a Business Improvement District will provide funding to enhance the area for shoppers.
Seek further external finance, especially from other European sources.
We have been successful in many different bids, to the EU, Coastal Communities Fund, Local Enterprise Partnership, and other sources, attracting over £4m to Hastings projects over the last two years.
Promote our key business clusters and support initiatives including another TEC66 exhibition.
We have continued our work and supported another successful TEC66 exhibition to promote the local specialist photonics manufacturing sector.
Continue to co-ordinate local economic inclusion initiatives, like Own Grown, which help make young people work-ready.
We coordinate the Employability Forum and were part of the ‘You’re Hired’ campaign securing pledges from businesses and young people. The Council’s Own Grown scheme continues to secure commitment from employers for our young people, with over 2,000 young people now having benefitted through training, apprenticeships and work experience.
> A clean and safe Hastings:
Challenge the problem of street drinking.
A lot of work has been undertaken with partners including running a street community hub where 58 people were assisted. Changes to the law nationally have made it more difficult for police to act on street drinking, but a permanent police hub in St Leonards Town centre, part funded by the Council, has helped to address the problem.
Extend the Reduce the Strength campaign currently operating in Central St Leonards, the town centre and the Old Town.
The scheme is now in place in Silverhill and Bohemia as well, with off-licences in these areas agreeing not to stock beers and ciders with an alcohol content higher than 6.5%.
Reduce the high levels of domestic violence in the town and apply for accreditation as a White Ribbon Town.
We achieved White Ribbon accreditation and our Councillors and Youth Councillors are ambassadors and champions.
Maintain the nationally recognised Grotbuster team who will improve a least 50 tatty and derelict buildings each year.
The team goes from strength to strength, with around 60 buildings a year improved, and over 700 in total.
Commit to finding a use for the largest derelict eyesore in the town – the old Observer building.
The Observer building has been brought back into use as a creative arts and community hub, and a planning application for the building is now pending.
Ensure that Hastings bathing water meets the more stringent European directive that comes into force in 2015.
Thanks to a work programme co-ordinated by Hastings Council with different agencies, involving correcting misconnected toilets, pond dredging, and water quality improvements to the Victoria Park stream, the new standards have been met with a ‘good’ rating for Hastings Beach, and ‘excellent’ for St Leonards Beach.
> A home for everyone:
Introduce a tenants’ hotline.
Our hotline was set up, and enables tenants to report rogue landlords and to seek help, support and guidance.
License all privately rented properties at least in those wards in the town with the largest proportions of privately-rented accommodation.
A selective licensing scheme has been set up in Braybrooke, Castle, Gensing, Baird, Central St Leonards, Old Hastings, Ore and Tressell wards. This will make sure all rented properties meet basic safety standards, landlords are ‘fit and proper persons’, and legal tenancy agreements are in place.
Clamp down on rogue landlords.
We secured funding to tackle rogue landlords and have increased our enforcement work, with several successful prosecutions. We joined Shelter’s ‘Evict Rogue Landlords’ campaign.
Step up our compulsory purchase programme of long-term empty properties.
We have been successful in our work and over 100 long term empty properties have been returned to use over two years. In most cases, the threat of compulsory purchase was sufficient to achieve this.
Continue to work with Amicus Horizon on the Coastal Space project in Central St Leonards.
Phase 2 of this project is underway and will deliver 30 more homes in addition to the 38 delivered in Phase 1. The improvements have had a big impact on the area.
> A green Hastings:
Retain the green flag status of our parks and gardens.
Hastings Country Park, Alexandra Park and St Leonards Gardens received the prestigious Green Flag Award in 2015.
Ensure through our local plan that there is sufficient allocation of open space, ‘green lungs’ and play facilities.
Our Local Plan was adopted in 2015 which identifies our open spaces. Almost 40% of our borough is open space, with new protected open spaces created at Speckled Wood, Robsack Meadow and Edinburgh Road.
Plan for more local nature reserves.
A new Local Nature Reserve was created at Ponswood, with plans for new reserves at Robsack and Speckled Wood.
Work with cycling groups to expand the town’s network of cycle routes.
The cycle route extends along the whole seafront and a new route has been approved through Alexandra Park.
Work with Groundworks to develop the Coombe Valley Countryside Park.
Work continues, with the new the discovery centre opening in May.
Continue our programme to enviro-retrofit some of the Council’s factory units, part-funded by European money.
This work was successfully completed, and the programme extended.
Reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.
The Council’s CO2 emissions from its buildings have dropped by over 30% since 2008-09 when the first figures were compiled.
Promote the use of electric vehicles by developing a network of charging points.
We have installed charging points in two of our car parks, and are looking to increase the number.
> A lively Hastings:
Continue to support our many festivals and events.
We have supported, promoted and funded many of the town’s festivals, including Jack-in-the-Green, the Hastings Chess Congress, Hastings Week, Hastings Carnival, and more, as well as creating two new fish festivals, and continuing to put on the Seafood and Wine Festival and the Coastal Currents visual arts festival.
Preserve St Mary in the Castle as a community arts facility with the Trust currently managing it.
This venue is continuing to attract and promote a range of high quality activities and performances, run by an independent trust with support from the Council.
Maintain the cultural and fun programme of Stade Saturdays.
Another successful programme of events was delivered over the last two summers.
Continue to fund the Council’s Active Hastings team.
The team take sports opportunities and street games into disadvantaged parts of the town and gives the chance for young people to become accredited sports leaders.
> A fair and inclusive Hastings:
Do all we can to mitigate the impact of the Tory government’s attack on welfare claimants – the majority of whom are in work.
We do this mostly by commissioning services in the voluntary sector to ensure people have access to support and advice, funding this to a much higher level than any other Council in East Sussex. We also maintained a full Council Tax Support scheme, so the poorest people pay no Council tax.
We will ensure that no Council employee is paid below the living wage.
All our employees are paid the living wage.
Continue to collaborate with the Disability Forum and support the Disabled Go guide.
The guide is on our website and the work of the Forum is supported.
Enable the ideas and suggestions coming from the Youth Council and the Seniors’ Forum to be heard.
Our community engagement office offers support and guidance. Our Youth Council meets regularly and leads campaigns, and cabinet members attend Youth Council meetings.
Stand by our community cohesion principle of One Hastings Many Voices.
We attend and support the many different cultural events in the town and welcome the contribution that is made by everyone in our diverse borough to make Hastings a culturally and educationally richer place.
> An efficient Council:
Continue to consider new ways to make the Council as efficient and cost-effective as possible and enable more contact, transactions and payments to the Council to be completed electronically.
Our work to transform the way we work continues and we are moving towards being ‘digital by design’. A new website, enabling many more online transactions, launches soon, and a restructuring of senior management realised £100,000 more than originally budgeted.
Make good use of the Invest to Save fund that Labour’s budget has created.
This has been used to support in particular the costs of developing new software to enable more online transactions, better online reporting of problems, and more sophisticated ways for members of the public to register a comprehensive account with the Council to track all their interactions and notifications. The fund is also being used to investigate and set up income generation initiatives.
[toggle title=”1. Building a successful local economy”]Revitalising the town’s economy remains crucial to our town’s continuing regeneration. We need to encourage new employers into town, promoting tourism, and building up our manufacturing and creative cultural sectors in particular. We need to continue to find sources of funding to provide grants to small businesses, especially in the creative and cultural sectors. But we also need to make sure local people are given the right opportunities by supporting and promoting initiatives that help people into jobs, so working with education and training providers is important too. A thriving local economy is an essential part of creating well-paid, rewarding jobs for all. And we need to retain a university – Hastings is a university town, this is a crucial part of our regeneration.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Work with Sussex Coast College and other partners to establish a University of Hastings, with good quality student accommodation and good student facilities, and access courses provided through the college;
- Provide small grants and mentoring support to creative and cultural businesses through the new Seascapes programme and seek funding for further similar grant schemes;
- Pro-actively encourage new businesses to relocate to Hastings, where they intend to offer rewarding, well-paid jobs for local people;
- Play a prominent role in the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, promoting the particular needs of the Hastings area;
- Ensure that we support emerging proposals for devolved regional government only if they recognise the need to address the sharp economic difference between Hastings and much of the rest of the region and devolve powers from the counties to the districts;
- Continue working with SeaChange Sussex to redevelop the Priory Quarter area for commercial, retail and leisure uses;
- Work with local groups to develop our town centres, recognising in particular the special regeneration potential of the America Ground area and Central St Leonards as cultural and specialist retail destinations;
- Work with partners to develop a strategy to increase the number of high-quality tourist accommodation self-catering and serviced bed spaces in Hastings;
- Work with Sussex Coast College and local employers to promote and encourage specialist manufacturing and science research companies to relocate to Hastings, building on the TEC66 local science and specialist manufacturing fair;
- Support the provision of low-cost start-up units for new businesses, especially in the creative & cultural sectors;
- Continue to develop the special character and potential of Hastings Old Town, recognising and supporting the fishing fleet as an important part of the local economy;
- Seek funding to establish a second round of Fisheries Local Action Group funding, to provide a further grants scheme for projects to assist the Hastings Fishery;
- Lobby government ministers and shadow ministers to establish a fairer system of fishing quotas that properly recognises the under ten metre fleet and the importance of sustainable fisheries such as Hastings;
- Develop the evening economy with public and private partners to work towards ‘Purple Flag’ status, a national standard for excellence in managing the evening economy, for our town centres;
- Work with Sussex Coast College, local employers and training agencies to co-ordinate apprenticeships, work experience programmes and other initiatives to help get young people into rewarding jobs and monitor the effectiveness of these programmes;
- Set up and maintain a Local Education Executive, to work with local schools and academies to help them co-ordinate their activities with local employers, the Council and other agencies.
[toggle title=”2. Improving the seafront and associated attractions”]Tourism remains an important part of the local economy and, after a few years of decline, is increasing in Hastings, against national trends. Looking after and improving our seafront is essential to this – not only is it the place most tourists visit, it’s the town’s shop window, where everyone from visitors to potential employers will go – it’s what being a seaside town is about. This includes attractions nearby too, such as the Country Park, Hastings Castle, White Rock Gardens and, of course, the newly reopened pier.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Complete the refurbishment of Bottle Alley with new lighting and a new kiosk on the upper promenade and establish regular uses for the Alley, for example as a regular ‘art market’ or event venue;
- Work with voluntary, statutory and business groups to develop a self-financing scheme for regenerating White Rock Gardens for leisure and entertainment uses;
- Develop a major Heritage Lottery bid to establish Hastings Castle as a major attraction, using its place in history as the birthplace of English culture;
- Work with local residents and businesses to redevelop West Marina as a mixed-use housing and leisure development;
- Work with the Pier Trust to secure a long term, sustainable future for Hastings Pier, following its re-opening;
- Complete refurbishment of the area around the newly re-opened pier and The Source’s indoor skateboard arena to create a new kiosk, steps to the beach, resurfaced promenade, a new decked area with seating, and palm trees;
- Promote the new skateboard arena as a national attraction;
- Complete the restoration of Pelham Arcade as a key heritage feature;
- Install public wi-fi along the seafront and in our town centres;
- Find a long-term use for the Old Town Hall Museum that benefits the local community and visitor economy;
- Work with the Environment Agency and Southern Water to make sure water quality is further improved and standards continue to be met in subsequent years;
- Work towards ‘Blue Flag’ status for St Leonards beach.
[toggle title=”3. Promoting Arts, Culture and Heritage”]Hastings has always had a rich tradition of quirky festivals, the range of which has grown in recent years, spanning the whole of the year. Some of these are run by the Council, such as Coastal Currents Arts Festival, the Seafood and Wine Festival and the Herring Fair, some receive funding from the Council, such as Jack-in-the-Green and St Leonards festival, and some are entirely independent. There’s also a thriving and growing music scene. We need to encourage this vibrant cultural sector, as a core part of what makes Hastings exciting, for local residents and visitors, using this Battle of Hastings anniversary year to make the most of our national and international profile.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Curate and stage the ROOT1066 creative arts festival during 2016, the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and use it to promote Hastings as a world-class cultural destination;
- Work with partners to produce a strategic approach to marketing the town in a way that links the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors more closely;
- Support and promote St Mary-in-the-Castle as a successful performance venue, working with the charitable trust that now runs it;
- Develop our programme of events such as the Seafood and Wine Festival, St Leonards Festival, Coastal Currents and the Herring Fair to maximise the variety and impact of the overall festival programme;
- Build on the ‘Stade Saturdays’ summer entertainment events to develop a programme of regular music and other performance on the Stade Open Space;
- Work with partners to establish a new annual summer music festival;
- Continue to support local groups to put on established events and festivals and encourage new ones.
[toggle title=”4. Keeping the urban landscape clean, attractive and well-maintained”]Hastings used to be noted for its large number of dilapidated and abandoned buildings, especially along the seafront. But, thanks to the Labour Council’s ‘Grotbuster’ scheme as well as the town’s general economic regeneration, many houses have been improved and abandoned properties brought back into use. We need to keep up the pressure, however, making sure that our many historic buildings are looked after, as well as focusing on keeping the streets, footpaths and twittens clean, throughout the town. Dog fouling remains a persistent problem and we need to find new ways to deal with irresponsible dog owners.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Continue the successful Grotbusting programme to force owners to improve the appearance of land and property, achieving at least 100 improved properties by 2018;
- Use enforcement powers to make owners of listed buildings do necessary repairs;
- Work with owners, housing associations and others to bring the few remaining large derelict properties back into use, including Winchester House and Hillesden Mansions, using enforcement powers and CPO if necessary;
- Use its compulsory purchase powers to bring at least 70 additional empty properties back into use by 2018;
- Establish a local list of ‘assets of heritage value’, to list buildings of heritage interest that aren’t formally listed, taking nominations from local heritage groups for inclusion on the list;
- Develop further and improve the online reporting system for rubbish, dog fouling and flytipping to provide clear target times for when problems will be dealt with and use our street wardens to monitor ‘hotspot’ areas regularly;
- Provide dog poo bag dispensers at selected litter bins;
- Lobby the government to provide more effective powers to deal with dog fouling, in particular a DNA database for all dogs;
- Work with the police to enforce new compulsory microchipping laws for dogs and identify irresponsible dog owners.
[toggle title=”5. Providing decent homes for all”]Hastings has a large private rented housing sector, much of it in poor condition. There are nowhere near enough social rented homes and many local people cannot afford to buy their own home. Homelessness is a growing problem too, as government policies on welfare cuts hit home. Hastings Council transferred its housing stock to a housing association many years ago. However, there is still plenty the Council can do, including working with local housing associations, preventing homelessness, regulating the private rented sector and even beginning to build new homes itself.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Set up a Council-owned housing development company to provide fair rented housing and housing for sale, as a means to both generate income and provide a supply of affordable housing;
- Work in partnership with housing providers whose policies reflect the needs of those in greatest need in Hastings;
- Work with Amicus Horizon on the Coastal Space programme to fund a further 30 units of social rented housing by buying empty or neglected properties in the St Leonards Town Centre area;
- Use our powers to bring into use available land, particularly brownfield sites, to meet local housing needs and use all its statutory powers (including compulsory purchase) to ensure that development happens within a reasonable period after planning permission is granted;
- Use the selective licensing scheme and other statutory powers to crack down on rogue landlords who abuse tenants’ rights and ensure that private rented housing is maintained to a decent standard;
- In partnership with other agencies, develop new ways to support and advise the most vulnerable in housing need, including people with disabilities, young people leaving care, single homeless people and people escaping domestic violence;
- Extend the social lettings agency to offer a lettings service to private landlords;
- Set up an online shared accommodation register, to help people find house-sharers;
- Support and provide services to identify and assist rough sleepers, in partnership with voluntary agencies;
- Represent tenants’ interests in our dealings with social housing providers, in particular making sure problems of poor maintenance and cleaning standards on social housing estates are dealt with.
[toggle title=”6. Keeping Hastings safe”]Crime levels in Hastings have decreased in recent years, to a greater extent than in similar or nearby towns. Much of this has been achieved through close working between the Council, the police and other agencies, such as housing associations, targeting problem areas and perpetrators. Anti-social behaviour remains a problem in some areas, with continuing concerns about street drinking and associated intimidating behaviour. We need to keep working on all these problems and use new powers available to the police and Council to tackle them, as well as regulatory alcohol licensing powers.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Continue to co-ordinate and participate in inter-agency community safety initiatives, including the Safer Hastings Partnership, Hate Crime Partnership and Multi-Agency Task Teams;
- Complete the renewal of the town’s CCTV system, to provide coverage across the town and in all Council car parks through high resolution digital cameras;
- Use our new Licensing Policy to restrict the proliferation of off-licences in town centres, while encouraging responsible licencees to develop the town’s evening economy with good restaurants and other licensed premises;
- Continue the ‘Reduce the Strength’ campaign to encourage off-licences not to stock high-strength beers and cider and extend this to other parts of town;
- Use licensing conditions to restrict further the sale of high-strength beer and cider from off licences;
- Participate in and promote White Ribbon Day and work with other agencies to prevent domestic violence and make sure perpetrators are dealt with;
- Support and fund the new St Leonards Police Hub in Silchester Road;
- Work with the police to develop tailored Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) coupled with Community Protection Notices to address the problems associated with street drinking and other anti-social behaviour, particularly in town centres;
- Link PSPOs to mental health and other support services that offer help to those with alcohol or drug addiction problems.
[toggle title=”7. Enhancing our parks and open spaces”]Almost 40% of Hastings is open space, much of it parks and gardens open to the public. In the Council’s new local plan, the amount of protected green space in the borough has increased, in spite of pressures to identify land for housing. The Council has won several different awards for the way it manages these spaces – in some cases, these awards have meant extra grant funding. However, there is always a balance to be made between maintaining open spaces for public access, and protecting sensitive habitats and ecosystems, and between different groups wanting to use our open spaces. We need to make sure we maintain this balance, and manage our open spaces for the maximum benefit of local people, tourism and the environment.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Work with local groups to secure community ownership of Speckled Wood and establish the area as a Local Nature Reserve, following its declaration as protected open space in the Council’s new Local Plan;
- Establish Robsack Meadow as a Local Nature Reserve;
- Maintain ‘Green Flag’ award status for Alexandra Park and St Leonards Gardens and maintain our Environmental Stewardship Programme with Natural England to protect habitats, encourage biodiversity and limit invasive species in the country park;
- Build a new visitor centre at Hastings Country Park;
- Install a new play area and visitor centre at Combe Valley Countryside Park;
- Install a cycle route in Alexandra Park along the recently agreed route;
- Develop proposals for a safe cycle route in Hastings Country Park, linking with the National Cycle Route at Hastings and Fairlight and providing better wheelchair access;
- Work with local groups to establish a permanent fixed route through or across Ecclesbourne Glen in Hastings Country Park that recognises and respects both the local ecology and the unstable nature of the land that makes this area a Site of Special Scientific Interest;
- Protect existing wildlife habitats, and create new ones, to maximise biodiversity in our parks and open spaces;
- Maintain all our parks and open spaces in a way that promotes environmental sustainability, using natural methods to control invasive species while maximising biodiversity and protecting rare habitats.
[toggle title=”8. Finding sustainable transport solutions”]In a densely populated urban area such as Hastings, in the crowded south-east corner of the country, traffic and transport issues are inevitably important, with overcrowding on our roads and railways a constant problem. While Hastings Council doesn’t provide roads, rail or transport directly, there are different ways the Council can influence transport policy, while promoting sustainable transport in areas it does own, such as parks and the seafront.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Develop a new sustainable transport policy, to include:
– establishing a consultative body on sustainable transport with the voluntary sector;
– encouraging walking and cycling;
– recognising the needs of disabled people in transport provision;
- Work with bus companies and the County Council to promote an improved bus service and better information provided though electronic information boards at bus stops;
- Lobby for:
– improvements to address severe overcrowding on the Ashford-Brighton train route;
– more limited-stop trains on the Hastings to Charing Cross and Cannon Street route;
- Support the campaign to bring high-speed Javelin Trains to Hastings via Ashford;
- Participate in regional groups to lobby for road improvements, particularly in the east-west A27/A259 route, and the A21;
- Work with the County Council to achieve improvements to local roads, in particular the seafront road and The Ridge;
- Work with the County Council to establish an off-road walking and cycling ‘greenway’ route through the town, funded through contributions from developers and external grant applications;
- Establish a sustainable transport link along the seafront.
[toggle title=”9. Protecting the environment and limiting climate change”]Climate change is a global issue, affecting all of us. But there is plenty that Councils can do to reduce their carbon footprint, protect the environment and encourage everyone to behave in more environmentally responsible ways. These can range from sustainable energy through to home composting and encouraging ‘green’ industry locally. We need to think globally, and act locally.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Install more electric vehicle charging points and pressure local supermarkets and leisure providers to provide charging points;
- Replace Council-owned vehicles with electric vehicles as they’re renewed;
- Buy the Council’s electricity from suppliers who use renewable sources;
- Develop a plan to generate electricity from renewable sources, on Council-owned land and buildings, including PV (solar) panels on the former Pebsham landfill site;
- Encourage home composting as a more environmentally friendly alternative to brown bin collections;
- Allow more Council owned open spaces to grow as wild flower meadows to encourage pollinating insects and reduce unnecessary mowing;
- Develop a tree replacement policy, aiming to replace trees lost in housing or commercial developments elsewhere in the Borough;
- Sponsor an annual award to local businesses that have done most to achieve environmental sustainability;
- Continue to improve Council-owned buildings in a way that maximises their energy efficiency;
- Use planning policies rigorously to support energy efficient developments.
[toggle title=”10. Promoting a fairer, inclusive Hastings”]Over 40 languages are spoken in Hastings, amongst people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Many of these recent immigrants have set up businesses that have helped to regenerate our town. But there are other minority groups in town too who play an important part in the future of Hastings and whose interests need to be supported and protected. We want Hastings to be a place where everyone is treated fairly and where services are provided that support everyone’s needs. We need to take action to prevent unfair discrimination too and play our part in welcoming refugees escaping from war and persecution.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Make sure people who do not have the skills to use new Council online services are helped and supported so they have full access to Council services;
- Work with local groups that support disadvantaged minority communities;
- Support and welcome refugees and groups working with refugees;
- Support and fund Hastings Youth Council and work with them to develop a Youth Manifesto for Hastings;
- Play our part in the programme to resettle Syrian refugees, offering to rehouse at least 20 families in Hastings over the five-year life of the programme;
- Work with the Seniors’ Forum and other groups and agencies that promote the interests of older people, assisting older people to live fulfilling lives;
- Work with the local Disability Forum to make sure disability access to Council services and structures is maintained and enhanced and that local retail and leisure services are encouraged to improve disability access;
- Develop an ethical procurement policy to make sure that, when the Council purchases goods and services, we don’t use unscrupulous or unethical suppliers;
- Revise and relaunch our Animal Welfare Charter to do all we can to end the exploitation and cruel treatment of animals.
[toggle title=”11. Tackling deprivation in our most deprived communities”]We know from figures recently published through the Index of Multiple deprivation that, although Hastings is becoming less deprived overall, there are some parts of town where people have not benefited from these improvements, where economic deprivation and worklessness remain a persistent problem. Government cuts to welfare benefits and their continuing attacks on the poorest people in our society have made matters worse. We need to find out why these communities remain excluded from economic regeneration and develop ways to tackle this. But we also need to make sure we can support the poorest people in society, and make sure they get access to the services they need, wherever possible.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Develop a strategy to address long-standing unemployment and income deprivation, principally in the Hollington, Broomgrove, Farley Bank, Halton and Downs Farm estates;
- Address health inequalities though our representation on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Health and Well-Being Board and work with the Clinical Commissioning Group to sponsor specific projects that address health inequalities;
- Continue to fund the Council’s Active Hastings team to take sports opportunities and street games into disadvantaged parts of the town and give the chance for young people to become accredited sports leaders;
- Develop a programme of ‘mini-festivals’ in the most deprived social housing estates to help engage these communities in creative, cultural and regeneration activities;
- Provide support and advice services through grants to the non-statutory sector, to help the most vulnerable members of our community;
- Do all we can to mitigate the impact of the Tory government’s attack on welfare claimants, by continuing to provide full Council Tax reduction to the poorest in our communities, and working with housing associations and the advice agencies we continue to fund, to try to limit the unfair impacts of the Bedroom Tax;
- Continue to fight, wherever possible, government attacks on benefit claimants and work with organisations who want to develop fairer welfare policies;
- Represent the people of Hastings wherever possible in the health and education sector to argue for better resources, higher standards and a recognition of the pressing needs that face the more deprived communities in our town.
[toggle title=”12. Maximising our resources”]The government’s attacks on local government have been unprecedented with grant support slashed to a tiny fraction of what it was under the last Labour government and our Revenue Support Grant (the main grant from government) disappearing completely by 2020. So far, the local Labour administration has managed to mitigate these cuts by using its resources more efficiently and successfully bidding for external grants, especially from the EU. But we need to do much more to resist these government attacks, looking for new sources of income and selling our services to others. It’s not going to be easy, we’re going to have to be imaginative to survive and continue to transform our town.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Continue our ‘transformational change’ programme, ensuring that all Council tasks and processes are carried out as efficiently as possible, and that all projects are properly planned and costed;
- Provide Council services online wherever possible, making it easier for people to apply and cheaper for the Council to provide them;
- Vigorously pursue a path to ‘entrepreneurial socialism’, using commercial methods to raise money for public benefit rather than private profit, investigating every possibility for the Council to trade its services to generate income and bring services back in house to save money and provide more opportunities for trading;
- Set up a Council-owned trading company to help us achieve this;
- Fully investigate other options already described, such as energy generation and housing development, to provide new sources of income;
- Invest in commercial properties, including building new factory units for local employers;
- Take every possible opportunity to submit funding applications to the EU, Local Enterprise Partnership, central government, Heritage Lottery, and any other funding streams available;
- Work with local and national groups to resist attacks on local government and fight for local government funding at sustainable and realistic levels.