Press Releases: week beginning 24 February 2014
Council Leader urges action on rail infrastructure
Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch has written to Network Rail and the Department for Transport asking that a full survey of the railway line between Tonbridge and Hastings is carried out as a matter of urgency.
Cllr Birch explained:
"We recognise that this has been the wettest winter since records began and that has taken its toll on key transport infrastructure, including on the Hastings to Tonbridge railway line. There have been several landslips this winter on the section between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells, and, indeed, there has not been a full service on this route since before Christmas. The line is still currently closed between Wadhurst and Battle whilst landslips are repaired.
"The importance of this route to Hastings is obvious ? it is our mainline, our rail lifeline to the capital. Although not as high profile as the Great Western main line, it is nevertheless vital to us, and I have no doubt at all that our visitor economy is suffering at the moment. Local businesses and commuters are also suffering.
"Whilst we applaud the hard work being put in by rail staff, often in unpleasant wet and windy conditions, trying to make good the line which still remains out of action, we clearly want these vital repairs completed as soon as possible and the line running normally again.
"However, we also want reassurance that the line will be fit for purpose for a future where climate change may bring us extreme weather conditions much more frequently.
"I have therefore written to Network Rail, who are responsible for the rail infrastructure, asking them to carry out a full survey of the Hastings to Tonbridge line to assess its long-term stability. Whatever the survey identifies needs to be done must then be implemented ? structural works to shore up the cuttings, secure the embankments, appropriate replanting to assist stability etc We cannot afford to be here again next winter or the winter after.
"If necessary, the Department of Transport should be approached to help fund any substantial investment that is required, and I have copied my letter to the Secretary of State for Transport.
"The prime minister said money would be no object to deal with the aftermath of flooding. On this key infrastructure route that brings so many visitors to our town and allows commuters to get to work the weather has caused just as much damage, and it is vital that action is taken now to ensure that there can be no repetition."
Young volunteers secure funding for Box Fit sessions
Two local young volunteers have gained funding from local housing association AmicusHorizon for new sports equipment as part of the StreetGames Co-operative Young Volunteers Scheme.
Richard Green, 19 and Dan Connolly 20, both AmicusHorizon residents, have obtained the community grant to purchase new gloves and pads for the 30 young people to use at the regular boxing for fitness sessions that take place on Friday evenings at Downs Farm Community Centre.
Cllr Emily Westley lead member for leisure and amenities commented:
"The StreetGames Box Fit sessions in partnership with Positive Futures are very well attended by both young men and women from the Downs Farm area and this extra funding, secured by Richard and Dan will make such a difference, congratulations must go to them both for their hard work and commitment to the successful application. I think it's fantastic that both volunteers are 'home grown' in Downs Farm area, they are a positive aspirational example to other residents.
"The weekly session is run by a qualified boxing coach and the two young volunteers. I'm delighted to say that AmicusHorizon have seen the impact Richard and Dan have made and have agreed to pay for their Boxing leaders Award which they will undertake in April."
Graham Morrow, AmicusHorizon added:
"I'm so grateful to Richard and Dan for volunteering and setting such a brilliant example to our younger residents. Their actions will make a big difference to the lives of young people in the area. I wish them the very best for their futures."
Council Budget approved
No increase in the borough council’s element of the council tax, no increase in council car park charges and no job losses as a result of the budget – these are the headlines from Hastings Borough Council's 2014-15 budget agreed by councillors this week.
Council leader, Cllr Jeremy Birch told the meeting that Hastings was receiving the biggest cut in government grant of any council in the South East – 50% since 2010. Government grant amounts to more than half of the council's net income.
He explained that over the next few years this could only mean the council becoming a smaller authority, employing less staff and providing fewer services to local people.
Cllr Birch also said:
"We have prepared as best we can for this by building up our reserves we are now able to release some of that money to support the budget for next year and for the next couple of years to help smooth our downward path to a smaller council."
However, some new spending has still been made possible. The council will be spending £20,000 a year on co-ordinating a town-wide anti-poverty action plan involving a number of public bodies. There will also be a one-off sum of £300,000 for a national cultural festival to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 2016.
The council also agreed its capital investment programme which amounts to £3 million for 2014-15. This includes nearly £1 million on disabled facilities grants to adapt the homes of residents who need it, £250,000 for Hastings Pier, £250,000 as part of a lottery bid to improve Hastings Castle as a visitor attraction and £100,000 to improve facilities for mourners at the crematorium.
As the freeholder of Priory Meadow the council is putting £200,000 into a £2 million facelift and improvement package which of course will see H&M moving in next month.
Cllr Birch added:
"I believe we are an effective and efficient council and the government agrees as they gave us the maximum £250,000 efficiency bonus. Now that this budget has been approved, we will be moving on to efficiency reviews of council services to see how we can do still better and be still more cost-effective in this climate of serious grant reductions."