Observer column: 19 February 2021
The virus infection rate in our town continues to fall and those in the most vulnerable groups have been offered their vaccinations. This has been a tremendous effort by a lot of people, many of them volunteers, and we thank them all.
We have up to date information about the vaccination programme on our website. The message remains the same if you can't take up the offer of an appointment outside of town you will still be contacted by the GP led service. Please don't worry you will not be forgotten.
Sadly, the ratio of second wave deaths to first wave deaths was higher here than anywhere else in the country and our thoughts are with all those who have lost a loved one.
We are all waiting to hear the government's 'road map' out of lockdown, which is due next Monday. A lot of local people work in tourism and hospitality, a sector which has suffered particularly badly during the lockdowns. Whilst it is important that people can return to their jobs as the lockdown eases, it will be absolutely vital that we continue to follow the scientific advice and keep our distance, wear a face covering and wash our hands: Hands, Face, Space, We must all continue to do all we can to prevent any more COVID-19 related deaths or serious illness here.
On Wednesday the council held one of the most important meetings of the year where we agreed a balanced budget to enable to deliver our corporate plan. We will be using nearly £1.5m from our reserves this year and the forecast deficit for 2022/23 - 2024/2025 is well over £2m per year, so we have further tough times ahead. We will continue to lobby the government for secure long-term funding so that we can address the needs of our town.
The Corporate Plan sets out what we will be doing over the next few years with the money that we have and why we have chosen to focus on what's in the plan. You can find the plan on our website and I hope you have all a chance to look at it to see what we are doing.
Last year we agreed a plan which covers four years and at its heart is our shared vision of Hastings and St Leonards as "a happy, welcoming place with a vibrant, unique culture where everyone has their needs met and is supported and encouraged to live their best lives."
Just after we agreed the plan last year the world changed as the pandemic took hold. The council, along with our partners, has taken on new activities, roles and responsibilities and last year we agreed our COVID-19 recovery themes and actions. We have a shared statement of intent for our town wide response and recovery efforts with the Hastings and St Leonards Local Strategic Partnership. We will continue to work together this coming year and aim to deliver the best services, the best opportunities and the best outcomes for the people of Hastings and St Leonards.
The priorities in our plan are to: minimise our environmental impact; tackle homelessness, poverty and ensure quality housing; keep Hastings clean and safe; change how we work to meet the future; deliver responsible regeneration for the town and make the best use of our land and buildings.
Everything we do will meet one of the priorities and we will work hard to ensure Hastings is a great place to live, work, visit and do business in.
We are also making sure that a focus on equalities and partnerships cut across all the priorities and our recovery themes, actions and key activities for the coming financial year.
As a Labour council we have been trusted by the people of our borough to deliver our manifesto pledges and we have a proven track record of working hard to try to try to improve the quality of life and well-being of our residents. We have come together to support each other in this town, and we will continue to do so as we work towards a brighter future.
The deputy leader Cllr Colin Fitzgerald is taking part in the Hastings Question Time tonight, organised by HEART, the volunteer group supporting people throughout the pandemic. The event will be broadcast live by Isolation Station and you can see it on Facebook. Panellists will be answering questions and will be joined by representatives from the NHS, voluntary and business communities to discuss the key challenges ahead as the town tackles the twin challenges of health crisis and economic pressure.
Please continue to be kind and considerate and stay safe.
Council Leader's column