Observer column: 26 June 2020
I hope that you are safe and well. Our priority throughout this pandemic (as I have said many times), which has guided us in all that we have done and how we have done it, has been the health and safety of residents, businesses and employees.
Last week's re-opening of the high street was a significant moment in our recovery from the impact of COVID-19. It is good to see the town's high streets open again and we are keen to see our shops do well which is why the council is backing the buy local campaign. Our businesses - who do so much to make this town what it is - now need our support to help them recover and flourish again. Many of them have been there for us throughout this time and they continue to need our support as do those who are reopening. Please buy local wherever that is possible for you.
With our partners we are busy planning the continued recovery of the town, whilst still responding to its ongoing impact of the virus, and we will be doing so in a way that is 'COVID-secure' as the government guidance tells us everything must be. We are keen for this re-opening to happen safely. Last week was about retailers re-opening and getting ready to do business again in line with new guidelines and this week is about beginning to welcome visitors back to the town. We now feel we can cautiously welcome visitors back to our town and we expect everyone, whether they are people who live here or visitors, to follow social distancing and respect the government guidelines to ensure their safety. Our businesses are working hard to follow the new guidelines and make sure they are operating safely, and this is very challenging for them. As a result of the new operating restrictions our town's new full capacity will not yet be what our pre-COVID-19 full capacity was.
For the past few months the council has been working to support our businesses: from the distribution of small business grants, to developing the new discretionary business grant scheme, and providing advice to businesses about operating and re-opening in line with government guidelines. We are still here for this next phase ready to offer advice and support for businesses. Similarly, residents can also come to us to report any concerns they have about health and safety regulations being complied with.
Although things are easing, the impact of COVID-19 is still being keenly felt. The council and local partners have done all they can to manage and minimise this impact and provide support for people. Very sadly though, loved ones have been lost, people's jobs have gone, businesses have failed and loneliness, isolation and mental health issues have all increased. There are many who are still very concerned about the real threat of COVID-19, which remains with us. We must continue to show respect for and kindness towards each other. The Hastings community hub is still here for you if you need it. Call 01424 451019 if you need urgent support or fill out our online form for less urgent requests.
This crisis has highlighted just how important coming together as a community has been and the essential role that local government plays along with community and voluntary groups and the other public sector organisations like the NHS and the Police as well of course as all the other keyworkers who have kept going throughout this time. It is hard to imagine how our town would have been supported through this without them all.
For the council the cost of helping the town through this crisis has been significant and without further financial support from the government we will be limited in what we continue to do. Local councils across the country are calling for fair funding to ensure that we can continue to work for our communities.
We've come a long way together in the last few months. Let's continue to be careful, considerate and supportive of each other so that we can continue our recovery from this, keeping our infection rates low, and seeing our town flourish again.
Council Leader's column