Observer column: 9 December 2022
We are a caring town
It was great to hear that Hastings has been named the happiest town in Sussex. This is even more impressive given the challenges many residents face, from the cost of living to housing, from seeking better mental and physical health as well as satisfying and well paid work.
But maybe that apparent contradiction gives a clue as to why we are a special town. The positive attitude we have is infectious and has been noticed, and is doing a lot to keep Hastings buoyant even in these tough times.
Many of you find time to help others in various ways, and this can be seen most clearly in the hundreds of voluntary organisations providing much needed help for thousands of people.
I have been visiting some of these this week, and want to mention three that are wonderfully supported because they are so well managed.
The Seaview annual carol concert returned to St.Johns Church after COVID-19, and drew such a full house that we were still putting extra chairs out as the singing started! Seaview has been supporting anyone struggling with day to day living since 1985. They never turn people away, but more than that, they have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere at their St.Leonards base so no one feels awkward, whatever their worries. They also go out and support those sleeping rough, and keep the Council on its toes with their calm but persistent and wise advice.
HARC (Hastings Advice and Representation Centre) celebrated 40 years of providing brilliant benefits advice at their recent AGM. As with Seaview, they have a committed team of professional staff who go the extra mile, and a voluntary management committee who steer the organisation, help fundraise and offer legal and financial guidance. They helped nearly 19,000 people this year secure over £5m. A remarkable achievement.
Ant then there is Tidy Up St.Leonards! A different and newer model, with hundreds of volunteers and no paid staff. Clearing rubbish and taking pride in our streets emerged during COVID-19 as a popular voluntary activity, and I have seen why. Tremendous camaraderie and exercise as groups large and small tackle local areas each week, and brilliant organisation that makes everyone feel supported.
So as we come to the end of 2022, and look forward to the joys of Christmas, I know we will also be thinking of those less happy than us. Not everyone can get involved in helping out but we can all look out for those neighbours who may need support. So many thanks from me on behalf of Hastings Council for making Hastings so resilient, caring and happy.
Council Leader's column