“Hastings and St Leonards have a positive and varied character, a proactive and collaborative council, with a lively mix of trusts and charities contributing to the town’s regeneration. The towns have an authentic sense of distinctiveness.”
So said the judges of this year’s Great Town Award where our town came second out of 74 nominations.
We also had a crack at becoming UK city of culture 2017. And all this gets national recognition for Hastings as a distinctive, cultural, improving place to visit, live, study or invest in. The Jerwood Gallery’s posters on many stations on the line from Charing Cross help with changing the image of Hastings too.
2013 was another year of revival and improvement for the town with an active, interventionist Labour council determined to drive ahead with the regeneration of Hastings.
Visitors to the town have continued to increase; jobs have increased. Our university campus has celebrated its tenth anniversary and the opening of its new Priory Square building. The council compulsorily purchased Hastings Pier and work has begun on its restoration. Work is underway on creating further business space in Havelock Road.
The first part of 2014 is seeing the biggest investment in our town centre since Priory Meadow opened, new monies going into the fishing quarter and grants for creative businesses. And our plans for a cultural celebration of 950 years since 1066 will take shape.
The social challenges in Hastings have not vanished; the council is facing big financial difficulties but Labour is still taking the town forward.
In this manifesto for the local elections in May we outline a programme that can continue the town’s progress. We ask the people of Hastings to elect a strengthened Labour majority that will ensure a leadership with the determination and resolve to see this programme through.
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 leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.
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 ‘Famously Hastings’ brand and website was launched, providing a gateway for anyone wanting to visit, learn in, invest in, or move to our borough. The website gets over 50,000 hits a year, with hundreds of links to it and videos from the site appearing on many other platforms.
PROMOTE HASTINGS AS A DESTINATION FOR EMPLOYERS TO BRING NEW JOBS:
We worked with SeaChange to develop the Havelock Road site for new office accommodation, and began work on the North Queensway business park. We also held the ‘TEC66’ conference and trade fair, attracting visitors from as far afield as California and Australia to find out about the specialist high vacuum and photonics manufacturing sector in Hastings.
DEVELOP HASTINGS CULTURAL ECONOMY AND FUNDING FOR THE ARTS:
We have supported both new and existing cultural businesses and working artists, establishing the £2m SUCCESS grants programme for creative cultural businesses.
MAXIMISE THE POTENTIAL FROM HIGH-SPEED BROADBAND:
High-speed fibre-optic broadband is now available through most of Hastings, with the rest to follow soon.
SUPPORT THE FISHING INDUSTRY:
Through the Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group, we have secured funding for projects to support the local fishery, totalling more than a million pounds.
STEP UP OUR APPRENTICESHIP CAMPAIGN, ENCOURAGING LOCAL BUSINESSES TO TAKE ON APPRENTICES:
We have run the Own Grown apprenticeship and work experience programme, helping over 1,100 young people get training placements with local employers. Unemployment of under-25s in Hastings has dropped by a third over the last two years – elsewhere in the region, it’s increased.
WORK WITH LOCAL SPACE HOUSING ASSOCIATION TO IMPROVE 100 HOMES IN ST LEONARDS:
Although superseded by the Coastal Space project with AmicusHorizon housing association, it is progressing well and includes bringing back into use (as flats) the very prominent, long-term empty, St Mary’s nursing home.
DEVELOP OUR LOCAL AUTHORITY MORTGAGE SCHEME:
Achieved, with £2million and almost 100 loans made to local people to help them purchase a home.
STEP UP THE COMPULSORY PURCHASE OF EMPTY HOMES:
Achieved, with over 50 orders now served. In most cases, the homes were brought back into use with simply the threat of compulsory purchase.
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 now intending to introduce such a scheme in Hastings.
ENSURE QUALITY NEW HOMES:
We have included new planning policies for space standards and design quality in our new Development Management Plan, which we hope will be approved by the planning inspector next year.
DEVELOP MORE CYCLE ROUTES:
Our newly approved Planning Strategy includes a comprehensive network of cycle routes, and we introduced shared bicycle and pedestrian use of the seafront promenade.
PRODUCE A GREEN LOCAL PLAN:
Our planning strategy has now been approved, with significant policies to ensure the environmental sustainability of local development. Hastings now has the lowest CO2 emissions per head in the country (amongst 64 ‘city regions’)
MAINTAIN THE QUALITY OF PARKS AND GARDENS:
Our new maintenance contract has set much higher environmental standards, with a greater emphasis on sustainable planting and environmentally-friendly landscape management techniques.
PROVIDE A NEW VISITOR AND INTERPRETATION CENTRE AT THE COUNTRY PARK:
Funding for this has been identified – it will be built during the next two years.
WE WILL INCREASE RECYCLING AND LOOK TO INTRODUCE FOOD WASTE COLLECTION:
Although it has not yet been possible to introduce food waste collections, the new waste contract has brought extended recycling across the town, with kerbside collections of all plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, tetrapacks and batteries.
PRESERVE THE BEST OF OUR BUILT ENVIRONMENT:
Through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, £1.5million in grants were made available to improve buildings, including shops in St Leonards and the St Leonards Congregational Church. The process for establishing the local list of heritage assets has now been set up, buildings will be added to it via proposals from local organisations.
WIDEN THE RECOGNITION OF THE OLD TOWN:
We resubmitted the Heritage Lottery bid for Hastings Castle (** result will be known on March 25th**) and we will submit a bid for world heritage status for Hastings Old Town when the UNESCO process re-opens.
WE WILL SECURE A LONG-TERM FUTURE FOR ST MARY IN THE CASTLE AND IMPROVE PELHAM ARCADE:
Achieved, through a management trust, and we have now completed works to restore the cafe and entrance in Pelham Arcade. Works are underway on other properties in the arcade, and other grants are being offered.
PREPARE FOR THE 950TH ANNIVERSARY OF 1066:
A budget has been identified for this, with a job created to co-ordinate the programme.
STEP UP THE WORK OF THE GROTBUSTER TEAM:
Over 650 properties have now been improved, across the town. More than 50 properties a year get the Grotbuster treatment.
CONTINUE TO IMPROVE THE SEAFRONT:
The new Warrior Square cafe opened, with more kiosks and seafront catering facilities opening this summer. A potential sustainable transport link has been identified for the seafront (the trackless mini-tram), and we will continue to investigate the best way to fund this. The upper part of White Rock Baths has been brought back into use as the pier visitor centre.
SAVE HASTINGS PIER:
We successfully completed the compulsory purchase of Hastings Pier and passed it to the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust (now the Hastings Pier Charity), enabling them to secure £14million in funding for its restoration. Work on the pier is now well underway, with completion on-target for Easter 2015.
ENSURE THERE IS A PROGRAMME OF ACTIVITIES TO MAKE FULL USE OF THE STADE OPEN SPACE:
We secured £100,000 of arts council funding to put on The Stade Saturdays programme, a two-year showcase of high quality cultural events to promote the town and boost the evening economy. From next summer, ‘giant garden games’, deck chairs and other activities will be available.
CONTINUE TO SUPPORT ESTABLISHED LOCAL FESTIVALS:
We have helped, supported and funded a range of festivals, such as Jack-in-the-Green, Hastings Carnival, Hastings Bonfire and Pirate Day; we ran the annual Coastal Currents arts festival and the Seafood & Wine Festival and established a new Herring Fair in November to help promote the Hastings fishery.
Hastings hosted the torch overnight in July 2102, and supported a range of community events to make this a ‘festival day’ for everyone. Over 50,000 people attended.
PROVIDING COUNCIL SERVICES DIFFERENTLY:
We began new grounds maintenance and refuse collection contracts shared with other councils, achieving savings of almost a million pounds a year while improving the level and quality of service.
FREEZE COUNCIL TAX:
There has been no increase in Hastings Borough Council’s council tax since Labour re-took control of the council in 2010.
Jobs, prosperity and living standards are top of the agenda for a town with huge potential but one that still lags behind the rest of the South East economically. For Labour, the all-round continued renaissance of the town is the key over-riding priority of the council. All the council’s activities will be judged against this test: how does it help improve the town and assist its revival?
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Bring about the regeneration of Hastings through the six-point regeneration plan agreed for the local area, covering urban renaissance, connectivity, skills, broadband, enterprise, image and cultural regeneration.
- Spearhead the campaign to improve the image of Hastings as an up and coming town with a significant history that is welcoming to those choosing to visit, study, set up home or invest in.
- Continue to use culture as a lever for regeneration of the town and make Hastings a major cultural hub in the south. The City of Culture bid the council submitted showed the potential within the town – the Jerwood Gallery, the large number of artists and others working in the cultural and creative field and the traditional culture of festivals and processions. Culture can be the key to improving the image of Hastings and making the borough increasingly a location for new businesses and visitors with higher disposable income who will stay longer and spend more.
- Co-ordinate the plans for a nationally significant cultural festival to mark the town’s celebration of the 950th anniversary of 1066. Hastings with its historical position as the scene of the emergence of the English language and legal system is the most famous town in the world. We will make sure that the maximum benefit is gained for local businesses and local people from this important anniversary.
- Promote the town as a major visitor destination using the Famously Hastings brand, particularly aiming to increase the number of visitors who stay overnight and for longer. We will work with our hotels and guest houses and with the visitor attractions in the town to raise the quality of what the town offers and we will look to bring external monies to help achieve this.
- Continue to work with the Pier Charity to complete the restoration of Hastings Pier after the Labour council compulsorily purchased it from the absentee, neglectful owner.
- Make the most of the economic potential of the town’s key shop window – the seafront, identifying sites for cafés and kiosks, encouraging long-term investment in facilities like the White Rock Baths and Bottle Alley.
- Enable the redevelopment of the prime West Marina site for leisure, housing and employment.
- Ensure Hastings fully recognises the importance of being a university town and the benefits of having 1,000 higher education students in three buildings in the town centre with a new hall of residence earmarked for the Station Plaza site. We will work with the university to assist their growth and to help link them up more closely with the local business community and its needs. We will also continue to encourage local take-up by school leavers and mature students of the opportunities at Hastings local university facility.
- Maximise the opportunities to attract more shoppers and more spending power into Hastings from the opening of top international retailer H&M and the major facelift of Priory Meadow. The Labour council is also investing substantially in new modern-style signage for the town centre to allow visitors to find their way to the main shopping and leisure facilities and to see the route on to the Old Town.
- Explore the submission of a bid to make the Old Town a world heritage site.
- Seek additional European monies to continue the good work of the Fisheries Local Action Group that has been performing so well with the existing European funds, which the Labour council secured. We will continue to work closely with our fishing industry to ease the inequitable quota restrictions on under-ten-metre boats. Fishing is an important source of employment and business locally but also part of the historic identity of our town.
- Continue to support the Town Team as part of our commitment to the revival of St Leonards. We are also investing in new signage and public realm improvements in St Leonards town centre and continuing to fund the St Leonards Festival for 2014.
- Work within SeaChange, the local regeneration company that the council set up, to see through the physical regeneration of the town centre and other sites. This includes the completion of the Priory Quarter masterplan which will see Queensbury House replaced with modern, quality office accommodation that, along with the other buildings, can offer attractive business space at competitive costs to businesses across the South East. Saga has brought 800 jobs to Hastings by taking 1 Priory Square (built by SeaChange).
- Work to get the maximum benefit out of the new European Assisted Area Status designation we campaigned so hard to secure. This makes the area eligible for EU funding for businesses moving into the area or expanding locally. This will cover virtually all of Hastings and some wards in Bexhill, where there are potential spaces for business expansion.
- Seek further external finance, especially from other European sources, particularly to support the cultural programme, the regeneration activities and the physical heritage of the town.
- Complete the restoration of Pelham Arcade as a key heritage feature.
- Carry out the major improvements to access and education/interpretation at Hastings Castle in time for 2016.
- Promote our key business clusters such as advanced engineering, vacuum technology and creative industries. We will support initiatives including another Tech 66 exhibition which shows the wider business world just what Hastings has to offer as a location for inward investment and for trading.
- Work jointly with BT on broadband take-up now that the whole area has been enabled. High speed broadband is part of the town’s offer to attract inward investment but also is an important tool for existing businesses that they should be fully utilising.
- Play a prominent role in the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, promoting the particular needs of the Hastings area.
- Continue to co-ordinate local economic inclusion initiatives, like Own Grown, which help make young people work-ready. We need to make Hastings more prosperous and continue to reduce unemployment but we must make sure local people, especially young people, have the right skills, including social skills, to take up these opportunities. Employability, especially in some of the most disadvantaged wards, is a serious challenge and we will look for outside finance to help us tackle it.
- Keep campaigning for improved transport links by road and rail. Our rail priorities are the electrification of the line to Ashford International and more direct 12-car trains from London. On roads we will campaign for the Baldslow Link providing a direct connection from the Hastings-Bexhill Link Road to the A21, and also the dualling of the Tonbridge to Pembury section of the A21. We are campaigning to rebrand the A21 as Route 1066.
- Work with Stagecoach through the Quality Bus Partnership to improve bus services, especially along the A259, on routes to work and to the hospital.
A safe and clean town tops residents’ survey priorities. What local people see as they open their front door and what they experience in their neighbourhood is key to their quality of life. But a clean and safe town is equally important to convince visitors and businesses to come here. So it is a key priority for a Labour council. We are committed to working with the police and other agencies to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the town and a senior Labour councillor chairs the Safer Hastings Partnership. We want to mobilise local residents to help improve the town – to report problems with cleanliness and to participate in community clean-ups. We are all part of making our town look its best.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Challenge the problem of street drinking, including giving council street wardens the same powers to seize alcohol from street drinkers as the police. We have just introduced the Reduce the Strength campaign by which off-licenses will sign up not to stock beer, lagers and ciders over 6.5% strength – the alcohol of choice for chaotic drinkers. Those few off-licenses that have not signed up will have their licenses challenged if they become the centre of alcohol-related problems. We will also continue to work with local drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation agencies.
- Extend the Reduce the Strength campaign currently operating in Central St Leonards, the town centre and the Old Town to the whole borough if there’s evidence of street drinkers acquiring their high strength alcohol in other areas.
- Continue to support and provide financial assistance to the Barwatch and Shopwatch schemes which can see offenders barred from all town centre pubs or shops.
- Reduce the high levels of domestic violence in the town by working with partners to increase reporting of incidents; working with perpetrators to change their behaviour and applying for accreditation as a White Ribbon Town.
- Continue to support the Hate Crime Reporting scheme.
- Achieve a 35% recycling target with the new waste contract which collects a wider variety of materials for recycling and collects glass from doorsteps. We will bring glass collection and seagull-proof bags to more streets that don’t have wheelie bins or communal waste facilities. We retain our commitment to bringing in household food waste collection in the future.
- Introduce a smartphone app for reporting flytipping, litter, dog fouling etc in addition to a waste hotline, ensure a speedy clear-up and report back to those who sent the information in.
- Declare zero-tolerance of dog fouling. We will encourage residents to report it and find new and better ways for them to do so. Our warden team, operating at different times of the day, in plain clothes when needed, concentrating on known hotspots, will take the strongest action. The new waste contract includes a mobile Poover for cleaning up badly affected streets. We will extend the green-dog walker scheme to more parks and open spaces, where responsible owners remind others of the duty to pick up after their animals
- Maintain the nationally recognised Grotbuster team who will improve a least 50 tatty and derelict buildings each year, having improved over 650 properties already.
- Commit to finding a use for the largest derelict eyesore in the town – the old Observer building – by working with the local community and partner organisations in the town and tapping into external funds.
- Sign an agreement with the Public Funding Regulatory Association (PFRA), which regulates the activities of charitable fundraisers, to control when and where ‘chuggers’ may operate in the town centre, and how many chuggers may be present at any one time.
- Join the other local authorities that are demanding new powers from government to curb high-stakes gambling machines in betting shops. They are capable of taking bets of £300 a minute. We welcome the commitment by Labour leader Ed Miliband to introduce legislation to crack down on these fixed-odds betting terminals and also to put betting shops in a separate planning use class allowing councils to control the number opening.
- By working with Southern Water and also with the Environment Agency ensure that Hastings bathing water meets the more stringent European directive that comes into force in 2015.
- Press for more 20mph zones like the one operating in the Old Town.
Labour believes everyone in our town has a fundamental right to a decent home. We have ensured that the local plan which determines the shape of Hastings up to 2028 identifies sites for 200 new homes per year, the majority built on brownfield land, which, within the confines of a town bordered by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and by the sea, goes as far as it can to meet the likely demand. The Labour council’s local plan insists that over 20% of those homes must be affordable. We work closely with the housing associations locally to ensure they can secure funding for the maximum number of socially rented homes.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Introduce a tenants’ hotline where tenants can pass on information about inadequate housing conditions safely and anonymously. The council will then investigate the report and take action if necessary.
- License all privately rented properties at least in those wards in the town with the largest proportions of privately-rented accommodation. The Labour council already requires all houses in multiple occupation to be licensed and requires a planning application to turn individual dwellings into HMOs with a presumption of refusal where there is already a surfeit of these properties.
- Introduce a Hastings Housing Standard which will be higher than the minimum housing standards legally required of rented property. We will work with local landlords, encouraging them to raise the quality of their properties to the Hastings Housing Standard.
- Clamp down on rogue landlords, using our housing enforcement powers, including closure notices preventing properties from being let until they meet basic standards and challenging individual landlords who the council feels do not meet the ‘fit and proper’ person test.
- Press the government to allow the council to freeze the payment of housing benefit for sub-standard properties until they are brought up to a decent standard and to allow us to increase and retain the proceeds of fines for non-compliance with licensing rules.
- Step-up our compulsory purchase programme of long-term empty properties. Bringing each of these back into occupation ensures another family has a home, council tax is paid on the property and the damaging effect of a blighted, decaying, empty building is lifted from the neighbourhood.
- Continue to work with AmicusHorizon on the Coastal Space project in Central St Leonards – buying up some of the worst HMOs, refurbishing them and reconfiguring them into larger units of accommodation and then letting them to people in employment, to create more balance in that community. We are actively seeking additional funds to intervene further into the privately rented sector to improve housing conditions and to uplift some of the most deprived parts of the borough.
- Encourage developers to bring forward development on sites with planning permissions, in line with Ed Miliband’s policy that sites can be taken from developers who leave them abandoned for long periods.
Labour is committed to enhancing the town’s marvellous natural environment and encouraging more people, locals and visitors, to appreciate it. We are also committed to making Hastings as sustainable as possible, to make its contribution to limiting the damage that threatens us all from human-caused climate change. We have indentified sites in and around the borough for major renewable energy generation.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- With our new grounds maintenance contract preserve the high quality of our parks and gardens and retain their green flag status with the use of sustainable methods of cultivation and maintenance that minimise environmental damage. In our local residents’ surveys our parks and gardens come top of the satisfaction ratings for all our services.
- Ensure through our local plan that there is sufficient allocation of open space, ‘green lungs’ and play facilities.
- Plan for more local nature reserves, following on from the recent declaration of Pondswood, funded to a large extent by the housing development in that area.
- Provide a visitor centre for our Country Park by 2016 and maintain the Park’s quality with its national and European environmental designations. Ensure the Country Park is properly accessible by bicycle.
- Work with cycling groups to expand the town’s network of cycle routes and do all we can to realise the Greenway concept.
- Work with Groundworks, the environmental charity, to develop the Coombe Valley Countryside Park. It is primarily on land in council ownership, with footpaths into adjoining farmland.
- Install a solar array to generate electricity on the now disused Pebsham landfill site. The site is in council ownership but its long-term care and maintenance is the responsibility of the County Council and their contractor.
- Continue our programme to enviro-retrofit some of the council’s factory units, part-funded by European money.
- Maintain our animal welfare strategy which will rule out badger culling on council land – Coombe Valley, Fairlight or the farmland in council ownership.
- Reduce the council’s carbon footprint including replacing council vehicles with electric vehicles.
- Promote the use of electric vehicles, including plug-in cars, vans and electric bicycles, by developing a network of charging points, in co-operation with retail and leisure partners.
Labour believes in the principle of sport, art and leisure for all. We provide a museum service free for all, we support and encourage community festivals and events which local people say they value and enjoy. We provide parks, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and an expanded and improved skate park for our young people. We provide the core funding to take sport and active lifestyles out into the more deprived parts of the town. Sport England shows that Hastings & St Leonards has had a 7% increase in physical activity levels since the launch of the Active People survey in 2006; only 3 of the 68 local authorities in the South East showed a greater increase.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Continue to support our many festivals and events.
Preserve St Mary in the Castle as a community arts facility with the Trust currently managing it.
- Examine the White Rock Theatre to make sure the cultural and leisure needs of Hastings people are being met in a cost-effective way.
- Create a new play area on our land along Bexhill Road – an area under-served with play facilities. We will work with the active local community to bring external monies to fund the new facility.
- Maintain the cultural and fun programme of Stade Saturdays. We have been meeting with the Arts Council to discuss their support for our arts and cultural programme and we’ll be looking for commercial sponsorship of cultural activities.
- Develop a set of smartphone apps to promote leisure and entertainment events and venues in the town.
- Continue to fund the council’s Active Hastings team who have done such good work taking sports opportunities and street games into disadvantaged parts of the town and given the chance for young people to become accredited sports leaders.
- Work with partners to enhance the evening economy, in particular improving the range of cafes and other venues open in the early evening.
It was under Labour that the council adopted an anti-poverty strategy and an equalities charter that all the main organisations in the town signed up to. We have led the work locally on mitigating the impact of the government’s unfair welfare reforms like the bedroom tax which Labour nationally is committed to repealing. Chronically sick or disabled people who require an extra bedroom because of their condition are still stung by the bedroom tax. The Tories are prepared to tax them for their infirmity.
A Labour council is doing all it can to protect local people from the worst of these attacks, to maintain community harmony in the face of a government which continually identifies one group or another to blame and to allow everyone as much opportunity as possible to be involved in helping us make the right decisions for the town.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Lead the anti-poverty work across the town and continue to make the alleviation of poverty in Hastings a key priority; continue to work to narrow the gap between the most disadvantaged parts of the borough and the rest and between Hastings and the rest of the South East. And we will poverty-proof all council decisions to check we are not unwittingly exacerbating the difficult position some of our local residents are in.
- 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 will work with housing associations and the advice agencies we continue to fund, to try to limit the unfair impacts of the bedroom tax.
- Work with London local authorities to resolve the problem of benefit migration, As a result of government benefit changes families are being priced out of the capital, and London boroughs are making use of cheaper rent areas like Hastings. We will work to integrate London households who are forced to move here and ensure there is no discrimination against them.
- Limit the impact on the most needy of the government’s cruel 10% cut in the monies the council has available to provide council tax benefit.
- Lead the campaign locally for a living wage so those in employment do not need to claim benefits. We will ensure that no council employee is paid below this level and hope this encourages other local employers to follow our example.
- Initiate further collective energy purchasing with our Switched On Hastings scheme giving residents access to more competitive energy prices, at a time when the government is allowing energy companies free rein to overcharge all of us for a basic necessity of life.
- Continue to collaborate with the Disability Forum and to financially support Disabled Go which provides the town with an updated directory of shops, cafes, hotels etc that are disabled accessible, thereby encouraging others to make accessibility improvements.
- Continue to enable the ideas and suggestions coming from the Youth Council and the Senior’s Forum to be heard.
- Stand by our community cohesion principle of One Hastings, Many voices – attending and supporting the different cultural events in the town, welcoming the contribution that is made by everyone in our diverse borough to make Hastings a culturally and educationally richer place.
“Through the work of both the Cabinet and the senior management team, the council continues to have strong leadership on financial matters, with stakeholders (including staff) being able to contribute to the development of financial plans. We have previously concluded the council has an effective programme of value for money service reviews (the PIER methodology) which aims to review costs and service plans, while considering the impact of financial decisions on the council’s priorities.”
That’s the view of the council’s external auditors about how efficient and effective the organisation is under Labour direction. We will continue to challenge the delivery of every service – is it as efficient as it can be, could it be better delivered in partnership with other councils or in other ways; and we will listen to the real experts – the council’s staff – about how they think things can be done better and more efficiently.
The Department for Communities and Local Government recognised the success of the Labour council’s efficiency drive by awarding Hastings the full £250,000 efficiency support grant bonus, commenting that the council had more than fulfilled the efficiency business plan it had submitted.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Continue to consider new ways of delivering services to make the council as efficient and cost-effective as possible. The letting of the waste contract jointly with three other councils saved Hastings £650,000 a year and the letting of the grounds maintenance contract jointly with Rother Council and with AmicusHorizon housing association saved a further £200,000.
- Make good use of the Invest to Save fund that Labour’s budget has created, partly using the efficiency support grant bonus. This can be used to invest in longer-term cost saving initiatives.
- Enable more contact, transactions and payments to the council to be completed electronically as this will be the preferred method for many residents. Telephone and face-to-face contact will of course still be available.
Our ability to make a difference to the quality of life of every resident and to the prosperity of all us is constrained by the savagery of the government’s cuts agenda. They intend to carry on reducing public spending till 2020, motivated as they are, not by an economic imperative, but by their philosophical obsession with reducing the size of the state, including local government.
If the council has to stop providing some services entirely in the next few years it’s because the government fundamentally doesn’t believe in public provision of services, so has slashed our financial capacity to deliver all we do now. The government is hugely reducing its grant to Hastings Borough Council for providing services to the town. This is the biggest reduction for any council in the South East, far more than that facing the leafy rural areas or affluent London-commuter towns.
A Labour government is promising a thorough review of the distribution of funds to local councils based on need, so hopefully no longer will areas like ours fare worst.
A LABOUR COUNCIL WILL:
- Do all it can to mitigate the impact of the government’s cuts on key council services and on those services local people treasure the most.
- Listen to local residents about which services they particularly value.
- Keep council staff fully aware of the difficult financial decisions we may have to make and keep compulsory redundancies to the very minimum.