Observer column: 10 July 2020
I hope you are safe and well.
Last Saturday was another significant day in our recovery from Covid-19 with the opening of more of the town's businesses and amenities. Every opening is the result of the hard work of business owners and employees who are ensuring they can operate safely. As you know we have reopened some of our facilities and amenities including all our public toilets (9am-6pm with enhanced cleaning) our playgrounds and our multi-use games areas. The West Hill lift is carrying people up and down the hill again and we are working to reopen our museum soon.
Our town is likely to be busier than it has been for some time and we want residents and visitors to stay safe. So, we must keep social distancing, regularly wash our hands and, where social distancing is likely to be difficult, wear a face covering (as advised by the World Health Organisation and re-enforced by the UK's national academy of science-the Royal Society). There's information about where to buy face coverings and how to make them on the council's website.
Although the death and infection rate in Hastings has been relatively low throughout this pandemic, some among us have lost loved ones and our thoughts are with them. The impact on the local economy has been significant and many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Our town's economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality which have been seriously affected but almost every business has felt the impact. It is good to see more businesses open and trading safely bringing in vital income, but we mustn't forget those that haven't been able to reopen. Our businesses are a vital part of our town and the council is doing all it can to support them. I have written to the leader of East Sussex County Council asking him to reconsider rises to on street parking charges in Hastings. Let's all try to support our businesses by buying local.
The crisis has also had a significant impact on the council's financial position with £4.9m of lost income and increased costs so far. We remain determined, along with our public service partners and those in the voluntary and community sectors, to be there for this town and to do all we can to lessen the impact of the virus. The Hastings Community Hub is still here if you need it: call 01424 451019 if you need urgent help and please go to our website to find out more.
As we recover from one crisis, we must not forget about the other one which needs the same focus from us all: climate change. Over these past few months the coronavirus pandemic has drawn our focus and effort but now we must all continue to keep climate change at the forefront of our minds. Back in March, just as the Covid-19 crisis started, the council agreed a climate change strategy and action plan. Last week I chaired the council's internal climate change board and as leader I will be ensuring that the strategy informs all the council's thinking and decision making and Cllr Maya Evans will take the lead on our action plan. As well as making sure that the council does what it can, we will work closely with partners to tackle climate change more broadly in the town.
We have a new area on our website with ideas and tips for things we could all try to do to make a difference. I know that many of you are passionate about this issue and I thank you for everything that you are already doing. We must work together to tackle climate change so that our planet can continue to be a home for future generations.
Council Leader's column