Observer column: 5 March 2021
Last week the prime minister announced the 'road map' to bring us out of lockdown. The dates that have been publicised for each of the stages will be dependent on many factors including the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, pressure on the NHS, and any new variants of the virus. Full details about the Government's roadmap plans can be found on their website.
We have started to see an increase in infection rates here in Hastings, although rates are still far lower than a few weeks ago. We need to continue to follow the mantra of hands, face, space and book a test if we have any symptoms even if they are very mild. We must be very careful as lockdown eases over the next few weeks.
Getting a jab is an important part of our journey to the end of this pandemic and more of us are being called for our vaccinations through the GP led service at the Hastings Centre or are being offered the opportunity to book a jab at one of the vaccination centres outside of town or at the pharmacy in Ore.
Please do not worry if you can't travel out of town because you will be offered an appointment locally in time. The GPs are also ensuring that all those people who are housebound will receive their vaccinations at home.
We are supporting Hastings Voluntary Action's Going for Zero COVID-19 campaign and you can find out more about on Hastings Voluntary Action's website www.hastingsvoluntaryaction.org.uk.
Our schools will reopen for all students on March 8th and I would like to thank all the teachers and support staff who have worked so hard to prepare for the return of their school populations at the same time as continuing to provide lessons for those at home and teach the students who remained at school.
Well done to all the parents and carers who have managed to juggle the demands of their home and work lives and fit in supporting children in their learning. You have been brilliant!
Following on from our corporate plan and budget council meeting a few weeks ago the annual council tax bills will soon be arriving. Your council tax bill is made up of payments to East Sussex County Council (by far the biggest part of the bill), East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, and Sussex Police as well as Hastings Borough Council. The money collected funds vital services for us all. You can find information about how the money is spent and a list of 'frequently asked questions' on our website.
For a week from March 15th East Sussex County Council will be closing part of Battle Road near the Silverhill traffic lights to install temporary concrete blocks to protect road users and pedestrians. The 'arches' will be demolished over the coming months and lane closures will remain in place until the work is completed. This is essential safety work and there will be a diversion in place.
The local elections will be going ahead on May 6th and it is a good idea to get a postal vote, so you don't have to go to a polling station. Everyone is entitled to a postal vote; it is easy to apply and you can find the details on our website. Our polling stations will be COVID-secure of course if you want to cast your vote in person.
It is International Women's Day on March 8th and although some progress has been made towards gender equality in our world, there is still much to be done in our country, and even more in other places around the globe. Women have been significantly more negatively impacted during this pandemic than men for example.
The day raises awareness of the stereotypes and inequalities that are still present in society and this year we are invited to 'Choose to Challenge'. The website: www.internationalwomensday.com has more information and shows the challenge pose and then you can take a photo and post it on social media using the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge. In our town the charity Women's Voice run by women for women raises awareness of issues and campaigns for women www.womens-voice.org.uk/.
Finally watch out for information about Census Day which is March 21st. The Census is a survey that happens every ten years in England and Wales. The information provided will help local authorities and charities plan for and fund the services that people need including transport, education, and healthcare. You can find out more at www.census.gov.uk
Council Leader's column