Observer column: 13 November 2020
Here we are a week into this latest lockdown, and it is challenging for many of us in a variety of ways including not being able to be with those we love and care about again when they may need us.
We currently have the lowest infection rate in the country and our collective efforts to keep the virus at bay by following the guidelines, especially by caring for each other by maintaining social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing our hands regularly-Space, Face, Hands- must be helping.
Thanks everyone and please keep up this great effort to keep protecting each other and our town.
Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the virus though because a low infection rate doesn't mean that there aren't those in our town who have been badly affected and across the country the COVID-19 death toll has passed 50,000.
The news of the development of an effective vaccine is heartening and I know we are all hoping that the work on this continues to go well so that we see a brighter new year on the horizon.
Many of our local businesses have been struggling throughout the pandemic and we have been supporting them as best we can by offering guidance and distributing grants. The latest information about the local restriction support grants that are available for businesses required to close due to the second lockdown is on our website. If you are a business that has had to close, please check to see if you are eligible as it could be worth up to £1334 for smaller businesses and £3000 for larger ones.
The council has recently been given a grant to help with COVID-19 compliance and it will be used to employ additional officers to assist local businesses. They are due to start work next week and will provide essential support to businesses, helping them to comply with the guidelines set out by government and with the measures they need to put in place to keep us all safe.
Wherever we can let's continue to support our local businesses, even if they can't be open in the same way, they may be operating takeaway services or click and collect.
As we know even before the coronavirus hit us child poverty was a big issue in Hastings. The response of local businesses and our local voluntary organisations and charities who came forward to feed our town's children through the last school holiday when the government decided not to continue to provide free meals was fantastic. Hastings Borough Council worked with the Education Futures Trust to help as well. I was saddened that the government was ignoring the needs of the most vulnerable in our community and disappointed that our MP and the leader of East Sussex County Council didn't support the call to extend the voucher scheme through the holiday period.
However, I am so pleased to hear that, once again, though continued pressure from the young Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, food charities and ordinary people the government has changed its mind and is now going to do the right thing and has pledged £396m of support to provide free school meals this Christmas, next Easter and through the summer holidays.
COVID-19 has impacted on the way we work at the council and we are now used to holding virtual meetings, with the second part of our full council meeting held earlier this week. Thanks to our officers who work hard behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly. You can watch all the council meetings live or watch the recordings which you can find on our website.
Remember that our Community Hub is here for you, call 01424 451019 if you are in urgent need of support or fill out the online form.
Please stay safe and let's continue to be kind to and support each other.
Council Leader's column