Labour: Standing up for Hastings and St Leonards
Labour’s manifesto for the May 2012 Borough Council elections
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Labour believes Hastings is the most improving seaside town in the country and we are committed to continuing the progress.
Over several decades successive Tory councils sat and watched as the town declined. Under Labour we have a council that gets stuck in, that intervenes to turn the town’s fortunes around. We believe even in these difficult economic times that Hastings and St Leonards is on the up, with a proactive, determined and energetic Labour majority on the council.
The borough also needs a council leadership that is prepared to stand up for Hastings. The council is facing a staggering 50% cut in government funding under the Tory/Liberal coalition. This is a bigger cut than any other council in the South East and much larger than many leafy, prosperous areas. Hastings Tories justify and excuse every attack the town has suffered from the Tory/Liberal government. How could they ever be relied on to protect our town from government cuts? Labour is on Hastings side in these tough times.
The Labour council is facing up well to the unprecedented cuts imposed by the Tory-led government. Unfortunately forty council posts had to be lost in 2011. Tory councillors supported the reduction in lower grade posts but they voted against dispensing with the chief executive and three other top management posts.
In the most recent survey of Hastings people, satisfaction with the borough council is now 57% compared to just 36% in 2008 when the Tories led the council. On 3rd May Labour is asking the people of the town to give us another two years so we can continue with the programme to revive Hastings and St Leonards.
Cllr Jeremy Birch
Hastings Labour Leader
- Maintain the ‘grotbuster’ squad – the Tories wanted to cut back on the grotbuster work that Labour started; the squad has now forced owners to improve well over 500 properties.
- Enforce the street-drinking ban – the incidence of large groups of street drinkers have significantly reduced.
- Support the street wardens and get tough on fly-tippers and on dog-owners who don’t clear up after their animals – we have retained the warden team despite the tight financial position.
- Cut the council’s CO2 emissions by 10% in the next 12 months – achieved.
- Compel all new developments to make proper provision for protecting green space as well as for adequate play space for children – we are making this an important part of the council’s local plan which will be consulted on.
- Encourage residents to bring forward their concerns about pubs and clubs and how they are run; ensure licensed premises abide by the terms of their licences on noise, nuisance, drinking outside; instigate reviews into where it appears that licensing conditions are being flouted – there have been some high profile reviews of pub licences; some have had tighter conditions imposed or even lost their licence.
- Seek statutory status for the borough’s allotments to prevent them from being built on – achieved.
- Support and promote Active Hastings – we have made sure Active Hastings continues to be funded and that sport is taken out into the local community through projects like Street Games and Women Getting Active.
- Improve or replace the town’s existing leisure facilities including the swimming pool – significant investment has gone into Summerfields Sports and Falaise Fitness Centres and user numbers have increased.
- Press for a 20mph zone without speed humps in the Old Town as a pilot for other residential roads in the borough – achieved in the Old Town, we hope it can be an example for other parts of town.
- Introduce further cycle lanes around the town, including the extension of the promenade cycle lane into the Old Town – achieved; cyclists can now ride from the Jerwood to the de la Warr pavilion in Bexhill.
- Fight any move by the County Council to remove the Borough Council’s influence over parking centralising all decisions in Lewes – we led the fight with the support of local businesses and communities, but the Tory leadership of the County Council just wanted a private company to run parking without really considering whether Hastings Borough Council could provide a more effective and efficient service.
- Prepare for winter weather disruption and arrange for local stocks of salt to keep footways as well as roads safe – Labour allocated money in the budget to ensure that the borough council keeps its own stocks and equipment for severe weather so we can supplement what the County Council gritters do by clearing town centre footways and some key road junctions.
- Continue to support the different festivals in the town that can attract visitors and bring different sections of the borough’s population together, like the St Leonards Festival, the Old Town events such as Jack in the Green, the Seafood & Wine festival etc – Labour has prioritised support for all these events even though the council’s budget has been hard-pressed.
- Compulsorily purchase the Pier and pass it on to Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust – we have served the repairs notice on the absentee owners, the prelude to the compulsory purchase. We continue to work with the Trust about the best time to complete a transfer of ownership.
- Restore the seafront – new decorative lighting, cleaning up and improving Bottle Alley, making worthwhile use of the White Rock baths and surrounding area – work has started on White Rock Baths and the new decorative lights will soon be shining; new play facilities will be installed at points along the promenade and plans are underway for the West Marina site.
- Establish a planning consultative forum bringing together developers, councillors and the community to talk about significant developments before a formal planning application is put in – achieved; was called into action for the West Marina application.
- Introduce an additional tough licensing scheme for privately rented accommodation to protect tenants from bad landlords – achieved.
- Take tougher measures including compulsory purchase to bring empty homes back into use – the council agreed to compulsorily purchase over 20 long-term empty properties.
- Develop an anti-poverty strategy for the town – achieved.
- Lead the adoption by all public agencies working in the town (police, health, education, Job Centre etc) of an Equalities & Human Rights Charter jointly committing themselves to provide services that meet the differing needs of all communities in the town and to combat discrimination – achieved.
- Establish zero tolerance of hate crime against anyone due to their disability, sexual orientation, race etc – Labour has made sure there is funding for a hate crime co-ordinator locally.
- Work with disability groups to press shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs etc throughout the town to make their premises fully accessible – achieved; a national organization – DisabledGo – has started inspecting 500 premises and producing an up to date guide on accessible premises.
- Introduce a new culture of openness to the Town Hall, publish online details of all expenditure over £500 the salaries and fringe benefits of top council officers, as well as the register of members’ interests – achieved.
- Involve local people in debating alternative options for future policies, work to rebuild public trust and confidence in politics – Labour committed the council to organising a Big Conversation with townspeople to help guide the 2011-12 budget.
We believe this is a record of achievement from a hands-on, single-minded and determined council leadership. Labour is ready, willing and able to carry on with those commitments as well as our fresh promises for 2012 if we are returned to lead the council.
Despite the cuts, despite the challenges of the national economy Labour remains ambitious and optimistic for Hastings. We believe it is only a Labour leadership of the council that could harness the imagination, talent and ingenuity of our local community and local businesses to grasp the new opportunities available for Hastings. Potentially our town has more going for it than other seaside communities – we are determined to unlock that potential. As well as continuing the improvements and initiatives we have presided over since the last election we offer a further programme of action to take our town forward.
- Develop a Jobs Action Plan for Hastings: We will convene a Jobs Summit: bringing all the key bodies together to develop the Jobs Action Plan.
- Rebrand Hastings with a major marketing campaign as a town to invest in, study in, shop in, move to as well as a town to visit: The council will be at the heart of a new co-ordinated marketing campaign, playing on the strengths we have already developed – our heritage, our cultural offer especially with the Jerwood gallery, our workforce potential, our improving educational attainment as a university town. With our historic strengths as well as the major investment channelled to Hastings by the previous Labour government, Hastings is in a much better place than many other seaside towns as long as we know how to market what we have on offer.
- Promote Hastings as a destination for employers to bring new jobs: We will work as part of the new regeneration company to continue the creation of new employment sites in the town centre and out at Queensway. And we will particularly encourage inward investment from companies involved in our already successful business ‘clusters’ in advanced engineering, vacuum technology, and creative industries.
- Develop Hastings cultural economy: The town is increasingly recognized on the national cultural and artistic map. We can become a magnet for creative individuals and creative businesses. Our University Centre can attract creative students who we will encourage to stay and open their own business in the town. Labour recognises the need for more business space for creative businesses with the aim of developing a cultural quarter as part of our regeneration programme.
- Improve Hastings visitor offer: Over the last 20-30 years the town has relied largely on day trippers. With our new cultural focus we believe that in addition to them we can attract more higher spend visitors who may well stay a weekend or more, or enjoy a short break and spend more in the local economy. We will encourage the quality restaurants and overnight accommodation that they will expect.
- Maximise the potential from high-speed broadband: Most of Hastings will be high-speed broadband enabled during 2012. Labour sees the council as central to the take-up campaign, explaining the benefits to existing businesses. We will use the broadband improvement as an added attraction to inward investors enabling especially creative businesses to locate here. Broadband can help mitigate the restrictions of our poor physical transport connections.
- Support the fishing industry: Under Labour the council successfully submitted a European bid for £1million to support the fishing industry. The money will be allocated by Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group. We will continue to back the campaign to exempt under 10 metre boats like the local fleet from the stringent fishing quotas.
- Step up our apprenticeship campaign, encouraging local businesses to take on apprentices: A Labour council will continue to encourage properly rewarded genuine apprenticeships aimed primarily at young people. The council will act as the intermediary pointing employers to the right training provider appropriate to their business and to the apprentice.
- Co-ordinate employability initiatives in the town: A key task is to make sure Hastings people are job ready especially as we work to attract inward investors as was successfully done with Saga. This means more than accredited skills and qualifications; it includes personal skills, reliability, understanding the requirements of employment. The council and some voluntary organisations have funds for this work which must involve schools, Sussex Coast College and local businesses. The task is to tackle the generational employment which exists in some households.
- Support our town centres: We do not support further out of town development and will prioritise sustaining our existing town centres. We will work with local traders to improve the appearance and attractiveness of our main shopping areas.
- Ensure education and training meets the needs of the Hastings economy: We will work with our schools and particularly Sussex Coast College, Hastings to make sure the town’s young people have the skills needed by our businesses. With the council’s community leadership responsibility we will monitor the improvement progress of the college and scrutinise the performance of all our schools. Business must take more interest in educational institutions locally and ensure the particular skills training they need are being provided locally. We need to encourage more work experience and work trials in the town.
- Continue to lobby for transport improvements: Hastings urgently needs improved strategic transport links. Labour’s priorities are: the Hastings-Bexhill link road which opens up significant land for employment and residential development, the dualling of the Tonbridge-Pembury section of the A21, electrification and dualling of the line to Ashford International a key route to Europe, the maintenance of all the Hastings-London links with up to 12-car trains.
- Plan for growth: We will prepare a Hastings local plan to guide development in the town up to 2028 which will promote economic development and growth while preserving the best of our green space and our architectural heritage, ensuring that Hastings is an attractive place to live and work.
- Make not carrying dog bags an offence: We will propose a bye-law making it an offence for dog-owners not to carry dog bags or other means to pick up after their animals when they take them out. Wardens would be empowered to ask if owners have bags on them and if not they could be liable to an on-the spot fine. We will develop the use of the ‘poover’ which can quickly clean-up dog fouled areas and maintain cleaning of badly affected streets.
- Introduce new initiatives to combat dog fouling: We will facilitate local residents becoming the eyes and ears of the council to tackle dog fouling through the council’s website and social media Facebook sites, ‘dog watch’ campaigns and responsible dog owner initiatives etc. We will make use of the new powers for PCSOs to issue fines for dog fouling.
- We will make it easier for residents to report issues: The council will make it possible for residents to send in photographs of flytipping, graffiti etc from their mobile phones and to receive back a photo of the cleaned-up site.
- We will continue to work closely with the neighbourhood policing teams: Under a Labour council environmental staff will attend all ward police meetings so residents can bring their priorities for tackling all crime and enviro-crime to the same meeting. We will continue to employ our own community safety staff (the only East Sussex district to do so) to ensure that the four Multi-Agency Tasking Teams for the different parts of the borough get to grips with localised crime and anti-social behaviour.
- Maintain and improve CCTV coverage: We will help install additional CCTV coverage on the Stade, a very important visitor area. We intend to retain local Hastings monitoring of the CCTV cameras round the town despite the County Council financially jeopardising our control room facility by privatising on-street car parking.
- Continue to tackle domestic violence; The council will continue to fund initiatives to tackle the scourge of domestic violence and organise the White Ribbon Day event.
- We will urge the community to help keep their own areas clean and safe: The council and the police rely on information from local people about what is going on in each locality and who might be responsible. We will encourage residents to report crimes whether it is flytipping or drug-dealing. They can be the eyes and ears of the police and council. We will encourage quarterly community clean-ups in each part of town where the council provides the equipment and arranges for the rubbish collected to be taken away.
- We will continue to lead the Safer Hastings Partnership: We will make sure it continues to be an effective body to promote and monitor developments in community safety across the town.
- Work with Local Space housing association to improve 100 homes in St Leonards: Local Space is investing £2 million into purchasing and improving large rented properties in the key seven streets in Central St Leonards. We are using our compulsory purchase powers on some of these properties and along with Local Space stepping up enforcement against poor housing conditions. We will also fund accompanying environmental improvements in the area.
- Develop our local authority mortgage scheme: The Labour council is offering to act as guarantor on deposits for first-time buyers of properties that are not new. This would mean they would have to raise a 5% deposit but would benefit from the terms of a 25% deposit.
- Step up the compulsory purchase of empty homes: We will use compulsory purchase powers against even morel properties empty for two years or more where owners refuse to act.
- We will follow the progress of councils that are introducing licensing for all privately rented accommodation and see if it would be suitable for Hastings: We are successfully bringing in licensing for all houses in multiple occupation but to ensure decent conditions in a town with such a large private-rented sector then we are prepared to require all privately rented accommodation to be licensed by the council and therefore required to meet basic standards. We have also made it council policy that all conversions of buildings into houses in multiple occupation will require planning permission and that will be refused in areas with there are already too many.
- Develop the next phase of the Ore Valley housing project: Following on from the first 51 homes at the Ore Station site we plan to develop the next phase on the old power station site and build another 50 or more dwellings. We will also ensure the compulsory purchase and demolition of the derelict Malvern pub and the redevelopment of that part of Broomgrove.
- 200 new homes per year: Our local plan till 2028 will identify space for 200 new homes per year to keep pace with increasing demand.
- Ensure quality new homes: We will introduce new planning policies for space standards and design quality in new housing developments.
- Develop more cycle routes: We will continue to promote cycling and walking. We will encourage cycle routes between the town centre and the Conquest Hospital, and from the Sussex Coast College Hastings campus at Station Plaza up to their Parker Road site.
- Make the installation of solar panels easier: The Tory-led government’s halving of the feed in tariff rate for renewable energy has stopped many people installing solar and made the council’s plan to encourage and offer advice more difficult. We will make it easier for residents in conservation areas to get permission to install solar and encourage other environmental improvements. We will identify sites for wind turbines in the area.
- Clamp down on pollution from idling vehicle engines: Leaving engines running while stationary is an offence; we will make sure it is enforced particularly against parked coaches and large vehicles.
- Campaign against unnecessary packaging and plastic bags: We will step up the campaign nationally and locally against the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags and against excessive packaging especially from supermarkets.
- Produce a green local plan: We will ensure planning policies require developers to build new properties to high levels of environmental sustainability. Despite the government dropping the target for the proportion of new development on brownfield sites, we will use previously developed sites as much as we can.
- Maintain the quality of parks and gardens: We will maintain the quality of the town’s much valued parks and we will ensure through planning policy that everyone lives in walking distance of an open space. We will also support local community initiatives to enhance and make accessible green areas.
- Provide a new visitor and interpretation centre at the Country Park: We will work with the Friends of the Country Park and potential funders to provide a new visitor centre in the Firehills area. We will continue to support the vision for the countryside park at Pebsham including the creation of new car parking facilities.
- We will increase recycling and look to introduce food waste collection: Under Labour Hastings recycles more dry recycling (everything apart from garden waste) than any of the other East Sussex councils. Our new joint waste and recycling contract will require potential contractors to produce plans for the collection of food waste and other recyclables. It also requires them to use lower emission vehicles.
- Celebrating our heritage – Hastings has a proud history and some fine buildings. We celebrate all of this and see it as important in attracting new people to visit or to invest in the town.
- Preserve the best of our built environment: We are supporting the drawing up of a list of heritage buildings that are not listed and we will seek further heritage grant monies to encourage local owners of heritage buildings to improve the heritage features of their properties.
- Widen the recognition of the Old Town: We will resubmit the heritage lottery bid for Hastings Castle and we will prepare a bid for world heritage status for Hastings Old Town.
- Continue to improve the Pelham area: We will secure a long-term future for St Mary in the Castle – one of our most cherished heritage buildings. We will work with English Heritage to unlock funds for a conservation programme for Pelham Arcade.
- Prepare for the 950th anniversary of 1066: 2016 marks the 950th anniversary of one of the most significant events in European history and the event from which we draw our international fame. This will be a major opportunity for the local economy and to raise the town’s profile.
- Step up the work of the grotbuster team: Labour believes anyone owning a property in our town has a responsibility to keep its appearance in good order. The grotbusters will continue to prioritise tatty and derelict buildings in high profile areas of the town – our shop window. But we encourage residents to contact the team about buildings in their locality needing attention. We will take action in default and charge the owner for it if they don’t act and we can enforce the sale of the property.
- Continue to improve the seafront: We will site new refreshment kiosks and sport and leisure facilities along the seafront to make the most of this key asset to our town. We will develop a new attractive use for the space along Bottle Alley. We will encourage a sustainable transport link between the Old Town and the new revived West Marina area.
- Save Hastings Pier: The Tory council would have let the Pier fall into the sea like Brighton West Pier. We will complete its compulsory purchase, pass it to the Pier Trust and work with them to ensure their plans are sufficient to draw down the £8.75 million earmarked for them by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
- Alan Turing: We will support plans to celebrate the life of Alan Turing, in this centenary year of his birth. He was the founder of computer science and the renowned codebreaker during the Second World War and grew up in St Leonards.
- Cultural Regeneration Strategy: We will work with local partners and those working in the creative industries to promote Hastings as a location for artists, performers and others working in the cultural sector.
- Funding the arts: We will bid for funding from the Arts Council and European Union to fund the development of creative industries and support a programme of spectacular events.
- Stade Open Space: The Labour council has created this open space for a wide range events of cultural events, music, festivals and other entertainment; we will ensure there is a programme of activities to make full use of this area.
- Maximise the benefits of the Jerwood Gallery: We will work with Jerwood to deliver a co-ordinated arts programme to both support local artists and support cultural tourism.
- Festivals: Street festivals are part of the identity of Hastings and we will continue to support established local festivals such as Jack-in-the-Green, Hastings Carnival, and Hastings Bonfire and Pirate Day; we will continue to run the annual Coastal Currents arts festival and the Seafood & Wine Festival and establish a new Herring Fair in November to help promote the growing herring fishery.
- Olympic Torch: Hastings hosts the torch overnight in July, and we will support a range of community events to make this a ‘festival day’ for everyone.
- Narrow the gap: Labour remains committed to narrowing the gap between the more disadvantaged parts of the borough and the more affluent as well as working to narrow the gap between Hastings and the rest of the region. We will look at the recent survey to see where residents’ satisfaction with their area is lower. We will implement the anti-poverty strategy action plan with partner organizations and take poverty factors into account when allocating resources.
- Continue to prioritise community harmony: The recent survey showed that 77% agree that people from different backgrounds get on well together locally. In 2008 the figure was 71% when the Tories ran the council. We will continue our work with community organisations and the community cohesion steering group.
- Continue to implement the Equalities Charter: A Labour council will lead the work to ensure all public organisations locally are living up to their commitments in the Charter to treat everyone with respect and to combat discrimination head-on against anyone with a black and minority ethnic background, those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, disabled people or those who may be disadvantaged because of their age or gender.
- Stonewall: We will ensure that the council achieves accreditation by Stonewall for work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
- Sport, art and culture for all: We will continue to support Active Hastings taking sport to the community and we will fund a programme of popular cultural activities on the Stade Open Space and out in the community.
- Celebrations throughout the year: We will produce a calendar of events through our community cohesion work including Chinese New Year; Black History Month; International Women’s Day and Refugee Week.
- Continue to seek local people’s views: We will consult residents to check their priorities for our 2013/14 budget and continue 12-week consultations on all key council plans and strategies.
- Continue to work with local community organisations: Labour will continue to support area-based working, the Youth Council and the Seniors’ Forum and work with the many important local community groups like the Hastings Community Network, Hastings Intercultural Organisation, the Disability Forum, the Inter-faith Forum and many others.
- Create one point of public contact for all council services: Our new contact centre in the Town Hall will mean everything from tourist information to housing benefit claims can be dealt with in one location. Under Labour there will be one location and one phone number for residents to contact their council.
- Continue to demonstrate effective financial leadership: The council’s external auditors’ recent report concluded: “The council managed its financial position well in the year, with clear leadership on financial matters shown by the senior management team and the cabinet…The council has identified the significant financial risks to its financial stability and has taken action to increase the amounts of savings achieved through its efficiency programme, including a major restructuring of the council and a reduction in the number of senior management posts”.
- Working with the Trade Unions: we will continue to work locally and nationally with the unions to oppose cuts to public services. Within the council we will reconvene the Staff Commission to monitor the impact of the restructuring of the council and the change in culture.
- Providing council services differently: In the face of the government’s tsunami of spending cuts if we stayed still we would be washed away. So under Labour the council will look at all the options to do things differently and more cost effectively. But we will do everything to maintain the quality of services for local residents. We have already concentrated all council staff in two buildings and disposed of the other council properties. We will share a grounds maintenance contractor and a refuse contractor with other councils and we are planning to share services like legal and personnel too. We will set up structures to allow the council to trade services to the public and private sectors, generating income to support council services.
- Freeze council tax: Despite the financial black cloud hanging over us there will be no council tax rise in 2012. The government has offered councils the money for a council tax freeze for 2012 by giving us in grant the equivalent of a 2.5% increase. But had we put up the council tax by 2.5% the extra money generated would of course carry on coming in every year. The freeze grant is for just one year. So 12 months on we will be short. Labour will also not be raising charges for the council car parks in 2012.