Press Releases week beginning 12 January 2015
Budget 2015 - 16
Hastings Borough Council's budget for 2015/16 will see further job losses and cuts to council services after the government reduced the council's spending power by 6.4% - the highest in the south east. However, key services to local people have been protected as best they can be.
Council Leader, Councillor Jeremy Birch said:
"This has been a hugely difficult budget-setting process, Leading councillors and senior officers have spent many hours poring through the council's spending - every pound has been examined to check if it is really needed. We have carried out in depth reviews of our largest spending areas and sought to improve and rationalise our internal processes. We are reducing the number of directors from three to two, and we will look at the remainder of our senior management structure during this year with a view to making further savings.
"The loss of council posts has been restricted to around 20 this year, perhaps 40 over a two-year period - which is about 10% of our workforce. But we have managed to protect those services most dear to the hearts of local people and those that make the biggest difference to the town. However, some savings will still be difficult to swallow.
Of each £1 residents pay in council tax, just 14p comes to Hastings Borough Council, the rest goes to East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police, and the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. The budget includes a 1.9% increase in Hastings Borough Council's element of the council tax, which will cost the average Band D council tax payer an extra £4.48 per year, or just under 10p per week.
"Car park charges will also go up for the first time in two years and be frozen for the next two years. Over the next two years the council will use around £1m of the reserves it built up to help cushion the transition down to a smaller, lower spending authority.
"In 2015/16 the Old Town Museum is earmarked for closure with its displays to be taken to the main museum off Cambridge Road. Only the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link will receive any twinning money - there will no financial support for links with the other twin towns. There will be a significant cut in support for the annual Hastings Chess Congress and a reduction in the support the council has been able to give local community organisations.
"The council is looking to make over £200,000 of savings by enabling more payment s by residents and contacts with the council to be completed electronically. It is also reducing its accommodation needs by introducing more flexible working arrangements for council staff. With computerised contact more staff can work from home at times or if out on the road not need to come back in to write reports. As a result a whole floor of the main Muriel Matters House office block could be made vacant and available for letting out and so bringing in an income.
"I would like to thank council staff for their forbearance and for the efforts they have made to find savings, We will be a smaller organisation delivering fewer services over the next two years because the money is not there. We will be putting renewed effort into looking for external funding opportunities, from Europe, etc. to try to sustain some of the important initiatives we have begun. However, even with fewer resources our commitment to reviving the town and improving the lives of local people remains."
The budget is now out for public consultation, with a final decision to be made at the full council meeting on 25 February.
Landslip destroys new steps in Ecclesbourne Glen
The recent heavy rain has destroyed the new steps in Ecclesbourne Glen, in Hastings Country Park, which were only opened just before Christmas.
Lead member with responsibility for the Country Park, Cllr Dawn Poole, explained:
"We had a report yesterday that the new steps that the volunteers and rangers had installed on the coastal path down Ecclesbourne Glen had been affected by a further landslip.
"When we inspected the steps it was clear the landslip is far more dangerous and serious than we first thought. Many of the steps that we put in with the hard work of the rangers and volunteers have gone. The land is continuing to move and the area is extremely muddy.
"Together with East Sussex County Council Rights of Way and Natural England we have decided that the path, unfortunately, is now too dangerous to remain open, especially given the further wet weather forecast and the fact that we still have a couple of months of winter weather to come. Once the weather dries up again in the spring we will obviously look at reopening the path.
"We will erect a temporary barrier but are considering installing a wooden post and rail barrier across the top and bottom of the steps, and provide signage to tell people why the path is closed.
"It is very disappointing indeed that after trying so hard to keep the path open for walkers through Ecclesbourne Glen from the East Hill we have been left with no option but to close it again."
Generations join forces
Young people and seniors from across Hastings took part in the first ever Hastings Generational Development Conference (HGDC) on Friday, 02 January at the White Rock Hotel, with attendees including council leader Cllr Jeremy Birch and Cllr Kim Forward.
Organised by the Hastings Youth Council (HYC) and Seniors Forums, the HGDC looked at confronting stereotypes that applied to both young people and seniors and working together to solve common issues both groups face. The groups also came up with a list of problems across Hastings that they would like to see improved and were asked to give feedback about positive things the council and their community are doing.
Rob Tyson HYC Chair said:
"The aim of the conference was to encourage Hastings residents to work together to solve inter-generational issues, integrate with one another and provide long lasting links between consulting and representative groups associated with Hastings Borough Council. I think the conference was very successful in this respect as the group came back with many great ideas. Everyone seemed very positive about the conference and I think this will be the first of many inter-generational activities between the Youth Council and Seniors Forums".
Cllr Kim Forward, lead member for communities added:
"Following the successful conference Cllr Birch and I are looking forward to meeting with members of the Youth Council to discuss their report and the ways in which we can take forward important issues identified by both young people and seniors.
"We are fortunate to have such an active Youth Council and I am grateful to them for their ongoing work."
A report from the conference will be compiled by HYC and sent to Hastings Borough Council. The HGDC marks the start of what will be many activities between young people and seniors in Hastings in the future.
Group gears up for Battle commemorations and celebrations
With the start of 2016 now less than a year away, a Battle-based group is working hard to ensure that the 950th anniversary of the battle which literally put the town on the map is commemorated appropriately.
Simon Alexander, chair of the group, explained:
"As local people, we know just how important '1066' is to the town, and we want to make sure that the 950th anniversary of the battle, Friday, 14 October 2016, is properly marked locally.
"A group of us - all volunteers - have therefore been working hard on plans to ensure that this date is given the recognition it is due.
"We will be publishing an historical booklet early in 2016, and on Friday, 14 October 2016 we will be holding a military parade through Battle, by the military band of the Gurkha regiment. There will be a special service at St Mary's Church, and a special Commemoration party, a Vin d'honneur will be held on the evening of 14 October in the Abbots Hall at Battle Abbey school.
"As well as local people and dignitaries, we have already invited five mayors from Normandy. The Saxons and the Normans will be well represented in the commemorative booklet.
"We will publicise more of the programme of events when we can. There is still much to do, but I am confident that the commemorations here in Battle on 14 October 2016 will truly ensure that the town retains its place in history."