Observer Column 17 February 2023
A plan and a budget for our town
I see no contradiction to being fully committed to partnership working, transparency and cross party working locally with at the same time calling out the reasons Hastings finds it so difficult to set a balanced budget.
Over the last ten years government cuts have removed well over £100m from our council's budget. And even more from our County Council, our schools, our health service and other public services. Next year we have been cut another 10%.
We are left to live within our much reduced means with a council workforce half the size it used to be, while residents suffer a cost of living crisis, a housing crisis and a health service crisis.
I want to talk Hastings up, to be ambitious, to deliver what our residents are asking for. To do that, we must be prudent and cut our budget further until the homelessness crisis is resolved. Last week we agreed to start buying homes in Hastings for our residents who have become homeless. Tonight we agreed to reduce our staffing levels, spend less on marketing, and find ways of moving people off our Temporary Accommodation books faster.
But we also agreed to do more to tackle the climate emergency and solve our flooding problem, and to help all residents keep their vote next year when new government identity check laws kick in here.
What Hastings needs now is proper national investment, so we have enough GPs, so we don't lose services from our hospital, so we keep our fire service intact, and so we can build enough houses again. So we can have youth services again, fix up our playgrounds and clean up the seas. And so none of us have to live in damp, badly insulated homes.
I have committed us to start talking to our local voluntary organisations and businesses, and our local residents, and see if we can find new ways of working together even while we are being starved of funding.
If you want to be part of the first of these conversations, on Environment, Health and Culture policy, please let me know.
Council Leader's column