Observer column: 17 April 2020
I am honoured to be the new leader of Hastings Borough Council and I pledge to continue to serve our community well following the example set by both Peter Chowney and Jeremy Birch. Like many other journeys in life, this destination was not one I had planned for or expected to arrive at, but I am pleased to be here and determined that this Labour council will work in partnership and strive to achieve the best for our town and our residents.
The biggest challenge we all face in this very sad, strange time is coping with the impact of the Coronavirus on our lives and that of our loved ones.
Hastings Borough Council has set up a Covid-19 Task Force which is led by our Managing Director and meets daily to coordinate the Council's response to the Covid-19 crisis. I am proud of how the Council is standing by residents and very grateful to council officers who are supporting those who are the most vulnerable in our community as well as those who are experiencing hardship as result of the lockdown, including businesses, the self-employed and those who have lost their jobs. Most people will never know what a phenomenal effort this has taken or how proud our officers are to have played their part in responding to this national emergency.
In partnership with Hastings Voluntary Action and East Sussex County Council we have set up a Community Hub for Hastings and St Leonards so that anyone who is in need of help or support can phone 01424 451019 or fill out an online form on the council's website. The hub has received nearly 600 registrations to date from people who need help. Council officers have been reassigned to manage the hub and triage applications. People are either helped directly by Hastings Borough Council or referred to other services such as Hastings Voluntary Action, East Sussex County Council, NHS Volunteers, Hastings Foodbank, HEART (Hastings Emergency Action Response Team), and the Community Pharmacy.
There are many organisations and charities in our town working to help people through this crisis with lots of volunteers coming forward for the first time. Thank you to everyone who is involved in supporting others.
The council is part of the national effort and has worked with other public service providers like the police and the NHS to drive home the message that staying at home saves lives. This is challenging for us as a tourist town as we are asking people to stay away. However, it is the responsible thing to do and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back when we are open again.
We have continued to provide essential services like street cleansing, refuse collection, running the crematorium and accommodating rough sleepers through homelessness outreach work. The majority of officers are working from home with a minimal face-to-face service at Muriel Matters House. The council website is updated regularly to support residents and businesses. More and more people are using it but to combat digital exclusion we have written to all residents over the age of seventy. We will soon launch an e-newsletter to keep people up to date on our Covid-19 response and wider services.
For now, let us all be kind and look after each other. Please stay home and stay safe.
Council Leader's column