Observer Column 12 November 2021
The virus continues to spread in our town and numbers of cases are rising and stand at almost 400 per 100,000 again. Our local hospital is nearly close to capacity and it remains so important that we do all we can to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. Please continue to keep wearing a face covering if you are in a crowded indoor space, make sure you get both your vaccines (and your booster if you are eligible), and take two lateral flow tests a week, even if you don't have symptoms, to help reduce the spread.
There will be a walk-in vaccination centre for first and second vaccinations in the Asda car park in Silverhill from 10.30am to 4.30pm for the next three Fridays in November. No appointment is necessary. You can also book appointments for the Hastings town hall site or the Hastings Centre for your first, second or booster vaccine. Both these sites offer first and second vaccinations with no appointment necessary. There are also pharmacies in Ore and St Leonards offering vaccines. Full details are on our website.
The council has worked hard with NHS colleagues to find a site in the town which is suitable for a permanent testing site and I am pleased to tell you that a new local testing site has opened at Falaise Road car park. Test can be booked between 8am and 6pm seven days a week on the NHS website if you have any symptoms or have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.
This week it has been reported that NHS chief executives, chairs and directors have said that the pressures on their organisations are unsustainable and they are warning that the lack of doctors, nurses and other health workers is putting people's lives at risk.
Latest figures show that there are 5.7 million people on waiting lists for hospital treatment in England. It is essential that the government listens to the voices of those in the NHS and puts an urgent plan in place to stop this crisis worsening. NHS frontline workers need more than our gratitude to enable them to continue their essential work.
At a Cabinet meeting next week, the rising costs of housing and how they are impacting on the council's budget will be discussed. There are significant pressures on the council budget, mostly because of spiralling housing costs. Spending on homelessness is predicted to increase by £457,000 in the 2021-22 financial year and a total of £931,000 in a full financial year. We are expecting these costs to continue to rise, and we need to make significant savings before the end of the financial year or the council's reserves will drop below the recommended amount. Officers are working hard to find savings within the budget without impacting on our services. If you want to listen to the Cabinet meeting, it will be available through the council's website next Friday afternoon.
Our officers continue to work hard to deliver vital services to residents and have done so throughout the pandemic. Most of them are working from home to minimise the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 but there are other officers whose work means they can't work from home. We continually risk assess our offices and working practices to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our officers and you, our residents, safe, where we work together. Thank you for helping us to keep everyone living, working, and visiting our town safe while we get through the winter.
Remembrance Sunday is this weekend, where we pause to remember those who have been lost in conflicts across the world. There will be a small, COVID-19 compliant service at the memorial in Alexandra Park on Sunday morning. The Mayor will be laying a wreath on behalf of the council. Please do not attend if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. The lights in Bottle Alley will be red from Thursday 11 until Sunday 14 November to mark this remembrance period.
Please stay safe and let's be kind to each other.
Council Leader's column