Observer column 10 June 2022
Hastings helping itself
Our town does not get the support it needs from government, or from the regional organisations such as East Sussex County Council. Everyone knows how much need there is here, especially financially, and with health, education and employment; not to mention Housing.
But the levels of support have been significantly reduced over the last 12 years, and so, it's no real surprise that for many people live has got worse during that time. Professor Chris Whitty flagged this up last summer in his annual report (On the health of coastal towns) and called for a more joined up and supportive approach from government. We have yet to see that happen.
In the meantime Hastings just gets on with it. What a resilient town we are. And one of the factors in this resilience is how generous and caring our residents are for each other.
Here are just three examples: National Volunteer Week has just finished and I saw many examples as I visited local organisations of the extra mile people go to help others in greater need. At Seaview, our Mosque, at the Refugee Buddy Project, at Art in the Park, at the Hastings and Rother Credit Union, at Surviving the Streets and at Education Futures Trust I met volunteers with tremendous passion, skills and determination, providing services (sometimes alongside paid staff, sometimes not) and taking responsibility as Board members.
Hastings Borough Council will champion the role of the voluntary sector and see what additional support we can find for them.
Secondly, our local entrepreneurs. Lots of people lost their jobs during lockdown and had to find other ways of making ends meet. When I visited Ivyhouse Lane industrial estate this week I met several family businesses who started up during the pandemic, and have done so well they have now moved out of the kitchen or garage where they started into larger premises. Hastings has hundreds of small businesses, many employing local residents and all of them adding to the quality of life here with new ideas and products, such as the family who make and sell Kombucha health drinks and are getting orders from across the region already.
Hastings Borough Council is building a new business start up centre in Hollington (I went to the topping out ceremony this week) and will help those needing a supportive environment to get their ideas off the ground.
And my final example is the new support funds that we agreed to set up at this week's Cabinet meeting. Using the modest amounts government have given us, we will invite residents who can afford it to donate to the energy support fund, so that more of our residents in dire need of help can be supported over next winter, when fuel bills and other cost of living rises will be hitting home.
We should all be proud of this local determination to help others where we can.
I would be delighted to feature others in future columns. Do let me know about inspiring examples.
Council Leader's column