Observer column: 18 September 2020
We are still living in very difficult times and this week began with the introduction of the government's new rule of six which means that it is now against the law to meet people you don't live with in a group of more than six whether indoors or outdoors. So, this means you cannot gather in our parks, beaches, open spaces or playgrounds in groups of more than six people and it applies to everyone, including children.
There are exemptions to this law, such as schools and workplaces, and you can find a full list of these on our website. Sussex Police will be enforcing this rule and have the power to fine people and again there is more information on our website.
We know that we have had a relatively low infection rate in our town and appreciate how much people have done to follow the current guidance. Our businesses have worked hard to make sure their premises are COVID-secure, and we have supported them.
Cases have been slowly rising across East Sussex so it's important that we continue to socially distance, wash our hands regularly and wear a face covering and now follow the government's new 'rule of 6' in order to keep ourselves and others as safe as possible.
We know that many people have been unable to book tests to check whether they have the virus which is very worrying and frustrating for them and their families and means they must self-isolate in order to protect others until they can secure a test and get the result.
It is unacceptable that people can't access tests when they need them and after so many months of this pandemic it is difficult to believe that the government has not managed to put in place a testing system that works. It is imperative that we have an effective testing and track and trace system for the people of our town and our country.
You may have seen another government announcement last week about COVID marshals which again no-one had any advance warning of. There has been a significant backlash from councils across the country about the idea and how it will be funded as the expectation is that local councils will pay. We proposed this idea at the height of the first wave as a use of the safer high streets funding, but it was rejected by the government.
We have coped with so much change over the past six months and many of us have experienced some very sad times. We have managed as individuals and as a town by coming together and supporting each other.
In July BritainThinks conducted a national poll that revealed just 12% of people wanted life to return to the way it was before the pandemic. The results showed a desire for a kinder society that: prioritises better support for people struggling with mental or physical health problems, allows workers more time off with family and friends, ensures better pay and treatment for essential workers, cares about the environment and ensures high levels of employment.
The same was reflected in East Sussex County Council's survey of 10,000 residents: a rising sense of community and the importance of community, and priorities focused on improving the economy for all, improving quality of life, public services and the environment.
These surveys show that there is a desire for significant change and the priorities for such change are clear and consistent. We have had the opportunity to reflect on our lives and how we live them and on what is important to us. Let's continue to work together to effect the changes that we need to build a kinder society.
We have had a good response to our survey about what you'd like the main priorities to be for shaping the future of the town through our Local Plan. We've also asked for your ideas and input on Hastings' town deal bid - how £25m for capital projects, such as new or repurposed buildings, places or assets, could best benefit the town. Thanks to everyone who took the time to help us.
We are seeking your views on the major projects we have coming up this year as we believe it is important to hear and listen to your voices. We want to do all we can together to deliver a better future for our town.
Council Leader's column