Observer column: 12 June 2020
Here at Hastings Borough Council, we are planning how we move forward in terms of re-start and recovery from the impact of Covid-19. We have been very clear in our messaging and people have taken care to follow the advice and have looked out for and supported each other. We are a strong community and the partnership working has been fantastic. I believe that our collective actions have contributed to the relatively low infection and mortality rate in our town. However there have been people in Hastings who have died from the coronavirus and our thoughts are with their families and friends as they are with those amongst us who have lost loved ones from other places.
As we move forward our priority must still be the safety and well-being of our staff and residents, and we must decide what is right for our town so we will continue to be very vigilant as we work slowly towards the easing of lockdown and assist with the reopening of more of our businesses. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure we offer the support and guidance our residents and businesses need.
On Monday, I made some changes to Cabinet. I have chosen a cabinet that I believe will best serve the needs of our council and our town, especially for the difficult recovery we have ahead. I have thanked those no longer in the cabinet for their service.
We've worked hard to protect Hastings from the virus and measures included keeping our amenities closed which was vital in order to protect our residents. We want to make sure we can continue to protect the town should we face a future outbreak so we are working with the Director of Public Health and East Sussex County Council to ensure we have plans in place should this happen.
We continue to work closely with our partners to ensure the best possible chance of recovery for our town. Residents' safety always come first, but we want to help our local businesses to recover and protect our local economy as well, so we are playing a full role in the East Sussex Economy Recovery Plan. Although this plan is being developed within short timeframes, we are doing our best to ensure that the needs of Hastings are properly recognised as we start to ease out of lockdown. We must focus the council's limited resources and capacity on delivering the best outcomes for our people and our town. We can't simply aim to go back to where we were: we must ensure that the need for fundamental change is recognised so that we can tackle some really important issues here in Hastings such as deprivation, poverty and unemployment. We need amongst other things proper investment and sustained long term funding and the provision of better opportunities and training.
We have had our small business and retail, hospitality and leisure grant scheme running for some time, and we know there are eligible businesses which are yet to apply, so please do check your eligibility. We have just launched our local discretionary grant scheme for small and micro businesses with fixed property costs whose income has dropped due to the pandemic. We are now taking applications until the 24 June. Please go to our website for details about eligibility, our local priorities, and how to apply.
As we move forward we know there are still difficult times ahead and we will do all we can to continue to keep our residents safe and support our local businesses. We cannot always understand the difficulties that others are experiencing so please let's continue to be kind to each other and stay safe.
Council Leader's column