Observer column: 1 May 2020
Over a month since lockdown began and people throughout our country are mourning the loss of those close to them as our doctors, nurses and other NHS employees are fighting to protect and save lives, sometimes sacrificing their own as they do so. Keyworkers such as care assistants, teachers and others working in schools, shop assistants, delivery drivers, cleaners and members of the public services are putting their own fears on hold and health at risk as they continue to provide for us. Thank you to everyone who is looking after us at our time of need.
It is difficult to overestimate the impact that the lockdown is having on people's lives in our town, especially the most vulnerable. Some are struggling to feed themselves and their children. Some are fearful for their livelihoods. Some are coping with mental illness. Some are living in fear of domestic violence. Parents are managing to care for and educate their children at home often with no outside space to use. Those who are in the shielded category may be living in fear. People of all ages are adjusting to a different way of life and for many it is an isolating experience.
Although we are all living through this crisis, the impact will be greatest felt by those already in great need, such as the poorest in our town. We are also aware of the disproportionate effect on women and the increased toll in BAME communities. We are working to ensure that the needs of our residents are met and are pushing government to properly fund and compensate the public sector, voluntary organisations and charities.
Local businesses make a huge contribution to our town and economy and we appreciate how difficult it is for them at the moment: we are saddened that some have been unable to survive.
We have established a business action group to work with local businesses to give advice and support and to help assess the impact on the local economy. As of Wednesday 29 April, 1329 applications for the small business and retail, leisure and hospitality grants have been processed with £15.64 million paid out and we are working as hard as we can to get the money out to the remaining eligible businesses. Please go to our website, www.hastings.gov.uk/sbg, to check if you're eligible.
We are proud that some of our businesses have been instrumental to the country's efforts to deal with the impact of COVID-19, providing equipment for hospitals and manufacturing testing kits.
For those in need, our Community Hub is here for you at www.hastings.gov.uk or on 01424 451019. So far it has helped 833 people throughout the town.
We are beginning to focus on how to help the town recover once the immediate crisis is over and we are aware that some restrictions to minimise the impact of the virus will still be with us. We will work with all our partners to ensure people here can live safe, happy, healthy, independent lives with the most vulnerable protected. We will strive to ensure Hastings is a great place to live, work, visit and do business in. The environment we will be working in will have changed significantly but your council will be at the forefront of highlighting the needs of our town and delivering vital local services.
For now let us be kind to ourselves and to other each other and please continue to STAY SAFE and STAY HOME.
Council Leader's column