Press Releases: week beginning 13 January 2014
Council plans new budget
Despite continuing reductions in grants from the government Hastings Borough Council is planning its budget for the coming year with no increase in council tax, no increase in car park charges and no further redundancies for council staff.
Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch said:
"Running the town with a 50% cut in government grant since 2010 is very difficult but we have prepared ourselves for this budget and are able to get by without serious cuts. A year ago we lost 40 council posts and cut back in a number of areas. To help us through this year we are calling into play some of the reserves we have deliberately built up.
"In these very challenging times for local councils good management of our finances and planning ahead is crucial.
"We have increased our income by bringing more empty properties back into use and checking up if everyone claiming single person council discount really is living on their own and we have continued to examine every area of our activity to ensure the council is as efficient as possible."
Recently the Department for Communities and Local Government awarded the council a £250,000 bonus for exceeding the efficiency plans it had set itself.
Even in these difficult times the council has been able to invest £200,000, as the freeholder of the Priory Meadow, which is part of a £2 million total - the biggest investment in the shopping centre since it was built. £250,000 is still allocated to the Pier rebuild and another £250,000 contribution hopefully to win a more than £2 million heritage lottery grant for improving Hastings Castle as a visitor attraction.
A one-off £300,000 is being put into maintaining the town's cultural regeneration and into a major national cultural celebration of the Battle of Hastings in 2016.
Cllr Birch continued:
"Continuing the improvements in the town is key to bringing more prosperity and more jobs but we are also aware of our current social needs. We are putting £20,000 in to co-ordinate the anti-poverty work of all the public bodies in the town and £40,000 to maintain the level of council tax support, or benefit as it used to be called, to protect the poorest as best we can.
"Now we are keen to hear local people's views. The budget and our plans for the year will need to be agreed in public by the council's Cabinet on 17 February 2014 and then the full Council on 26 February, so, now is your chance to put forward your views, which need to reach us by noon on 14 February."
Any community group that would like Cllr Birch or other leading councillors to attend one of their meetings to explain these proposals can telephone 01424 451485. The draft plans and budget are now available to view at www.hastings.gov.uk. Views can be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hastings Borough Council will host the annual Holocaust Memorial Day Service at St Mary in the Castle on Saturday, 25 January at 11am.
Organiser Brian Linke explained:
"The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 is 'Journeys'.
"We are encouraging people around the UK to come together to remember those murdered during the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On this day, we hope people will come along to our event and take the opportunity to think about how they can connect with others within our community.
"The Holocaust Memorial Day Service is an opportunity to remember the atrocities committed and to challenge us to work together in our community, with no discrimination because of race, religion, colour or gender and to ensure such horrific events never occur again.
"The service will include His Excellency Mr Witold Sobków the Polish Ambassador, telling us of the journey made by Poland, under German and Russian domination, to eventual democracy.
"Others will have their own stories and journeys to relate.
"By listening to their stories we can understand the need to work together to create a society which is free from discrimination and hatred."
The service is open to everyone, and admission is free but by ticket only. Tickets are available from the Hastings Tourist Information Centre, Hastings Library and Bexhill Library.
Music will be provided by Opera South East.
New exhibitions in Hastings
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery now have three new exhibitions on show.
In the Long Gallery until January 2015, The Four Seasons, is a new selection from the Museum's permanent collection to celebrate the wonder of the four seasons. From the fresh new vibrant shoots of spring, through the balmy hues of glorious summers, the rich ochre warmth of the autumnal harvest, and the icy blanket of the deep winter months.
On the First Floor Walkway from 17 January to 08 March, No Labels - Photographs by John Stiles LRPS. This exhibition illustrates the character, strengths and individuality of the people involved with the Seaview Project, a local charity working with those who feel they are living on the edge of society.
On the Lower Walkway until 31 March, the Wealden Coin Hoard. This rare coin hoard was hidden for 1,700 years until found in 2006 by a metal detectorist on the edge of the Weald in East Sussex. One of the largest hoards ever found in the county, the 2,895 silver coins date from the 3rd century AD. The coins were conserved and catalogued by staff at the British Museum, and were acquired by the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton under the Treasure Act, with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Cllr Emily Westley lead member for leisure and amenities commented:
"These new exhibitions offer visitors to the museum three very varied and interesting displays, and it's all free!
"This Saturday, 18 January at 2pm, there will be a free talk by East Sussex County Archaeologist, Casper Johnson who will talk about the findings of the excavations on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.
"It's also the last chance to see The French Connection, an exhibition which explores links between East Sussex and Normandy from the Middle Ages to modern times as revealed through the archives of the East Sussex Records Office and the Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime."
Visit www.hmag.org.uk for further information.
Crack down on 'grot' continues with outstanding results
Continuing the success of the campaign, the council's Grotbusting team already have a number of high profile 'walk abouts' planned in the town over the next week.
Planning enforcement officers and councillors will be focussing on Kings Road and the '7 Streets' area of St Leonards. The 7 Streets Project is a neighbourhood initiative based in Central St Leonards ward. It was set up with funding from the People's Health Lottery and includes a weekly clean-up, a community information centre in Silchester Road, keeping a record of housing quality and more. The team will also be visiting Old Hastings ward.
Noticeable improvements have been made to many buildings in Hastings and St Leonards using Section 215 Notices. 635 properties have now been refurbished since the initiative started in June 2000, with 47 properties so far in this financial year.
Cllr Peter Chowney lead member for regeneration explained:
"The Grotbusting team continue to achieve extraordinary results, currently with undertakings on numerous long term eyesores including Priory Road, Claremont and Devonshire Road. Work on the last significant eyesores on the seafront has largely now been completed.
"Grotbusters has been so successful that our senior enforcement officer has been invited by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to give a presentation on the initiative which is now widely held as an example of best practice.
"We have a zero tolerance approach to shabby and derelict structures, land and buildings and consider this initiative to be a core part of the council's function and it's now a key element in the town's regeneration. A town marred with eyesores results in negative perceptions, including fear of crime and a town in decline. We are actively addressing this and in so doing we are creating a town that people are proud of, a town where people want to live and a town that businesses want to invest in."