Observer column 20 January 2023
Life and Limb
This week I was due to write about the draft Council plan and budget which is out for consultation until 3 February.
But events have overtaken this, as on Monday we had the worst flooding across the town that anyone can remember, and as I write there is a serious fire in the Old Town.
As usual, when life and limb events like this happen in Hastings, we see a tremendous response from all the responsible agencies. So, on Monday we had Southern Water, Police, UK Power and town centre managers out early, and by tea time most of the water had been pumped away from town centre streets.
And this evening, as on Monday, the East Sussex Fire and Rescue crews responded fast, and with great calm and professionalism, working tirelessly until they felt we were all safe.
The Council's role is both to help coordinate all these actions, and to be ready with emergency accommodation. There has been excellent teamwork this week which we should all be thankful for.
However, I am worried. Worried about the increased frequency of these major incidents. Climate change is a key factor, and needs all of us to think about how we need to change our behaviour, and the way we design our communities and town centres. And worried that our partner agencies may not be able to respond so well in future. A combination of privatisation and austerity means that teams of excellent officers in, for example, Fire, Water, Police, Health and Housing are increasingly overstretched. And if we are not careful, the council will also struggle to hold these services to account, ask the difficult questions on behalf of residents, ensure that Hastings can both survive and thrive safely, and so encourage people and business to invest here.
So, I have already written to Southern Water and the Environment Agency, and asked to see the Fire and Rescue budget proposals. And after this week, I will look again at how all agencies propose to invest in and staff Hastings but also ask ourselves if we have the capacity to continue to hold everyone to account.
It would help if you can look at the budget proposals, which prioritise housing, tackling homelessness and dealing with the Climate Emergency. And write to me with your views please.
I will read all responses, and consider any revisions needed, before presenting a final budget to the Full Council on 15 February.
Council Leader's column