Observer column: 21 August 2020
Over the past six months the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and what we have experienced has been strange, unexpected and very challenging. We are still having to adapt and continue to rise to the challenges we face. Unity has been a key theme throughout this pandemic and how we have pulled together as a community, how we have supported and guided each other and how we have been considerate and thought of others is something we can be proud of. At a time when we weren't able to come together with loved ones and friends we really came together as a community. Let's keep this in mind as we move forward.
Last Saturday saw further easing of lockdown restrictions and more businesses are reopening. But whilst some of us will get to experience more freedom this isn't the case for everyone as parts of the country are being put into local lockdowns to tackle flare ups of the virus. This is a reminder to us all that the risks posed by COVID-19 are still here, and that it continues to shape how we all, for now, must live our lives.
This week the council's seaside cycle hire hut can reopen following a grant from the Foreshore Trust. The service, like the council's West Hill lift, has been awarded Visit Britain's Good to Go COVID secure certification. It is on the seafront by Pelham car park and you can rent bikes at weekends between 10am and 3pm. All hire bookings must be made in advance, by 2pm on Friday. There are bikes for the whole family so everyone can enjoy a day out together. You can find out more on our website.
Next Thursday Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, one of our town's great attractions, is reopening having also received Good to Go certification. Staff at the museum, who have been operating a fantastic digital service during the pandemic, have been working hard to make sure that the museum reopens safely. There will be new measures such as a one-way route and hand sanitiser stations throughout the museum. Visitors will need to wear a face covering while in the museum. From Thursday to Sunday 10am-12.30pm and 2-5pm the museum's popular exhibitions, including Grey Owl's cabin and Lady Brassey's collections, will be on show as well as the new Hastings Open 2020 exhibition. If you're planning on visiting you will need to book a free timed ticket in advance (up to 14 days before), on the museum's website.
If we want to continue to see these increased freedoms which allow us to do more of the things we enjoy with friends and families, we must keep doing all we can to stay safe and keep others safe. We must wear masks in shops, on public transport and in crowded areas, wash our hands regularly and maintain social distancing. If we have any symptoms, we need to book a test and self-isolate. You can find out more about booking a test on our website or directly on the NHS's website.
In a time of such change and uncertainty, the exam results debacle this week, which caused such uncertainty and unnecessary distress for some young people and their families in our town and throughout the country, was incredibly disappointing to see. I am, of course, pleased and relieved that there has been a U-turn by the government about exam grades and I was also pleased about the government's U-turn on free school meals earlier in the summer. The truth is that we need the right carefully considered decisions to be made the first time round to ensure stability and certainty. There's more change on the horizon with the government's proposals for significant changes to planning, Public Health England being replaced by the National Institute for Health Protection - which will also manage the NHS test and trace system - and an imminent White Paper on the restructuring of local government It is essential that we have we clarity and good decision making.
To finish on a positive note, we have just submitted our 'Town Deal' bid for £1m of investment over next few months, which you will read about elsewhere. If successful, this should provide an immediate boost to our town's economy.
Council Leader's column