Observer column: 12 January 2018
Never a dull moment in Hastings!
As we embark on a new year, it's a good time to look forward to what we can expect in Hastings. There are some big challenges facing us, many of which I've talked about in previous columns. We can't ignore those. But there are plenty of good, positive things to look forward to as well.
Although funding for mainstream council and other public services continues to be cut, there's some very useful additional funding that the council and its partners have attracted for specific projects. The council has been successful in its bid for £5m EU Community Led Local Development funding, which will be spent on projects to support people in the most deprived parts of Hastings, helping to improve skills, employability, and access to jobs. We've also won another £1m EU funding for the Fisheries Local Action Group, for projects to assist the local fishery, and an opportunity to bid for an extra £2m. The government's Education Action Zone will bring £6m to the borough over two years, to improve literacy and maths in schools, to improve mental health in young people, and improve skills training. That will be run by a local board, on which both Hastings Council and East Sussex County Council will be represented.
Last year, we were successful in our bid for money from the Coastal Communities Fund, which will see further improvements to the seafront, including a new water and landscape feature to replace the old fountains above The Source BMX park. Improvements to the alleyway behind Claremont are also a part of this.
Three of our local cultural organisations now receive Arts Council funding as part of their 2018-22 programme, amounting to £1.3m. These are the Jerwood Gallery, Home Live Arts (through their involvement in the Coastal Currents Arts Festival), and Project Artworks, who will all now be able to continue and extend the work they do in town.
Hastings Council will be putting on its programme of tourism and cultural events again this year, including the Mid-Summer Fish Festival, the Seafood and Wine Festival, and the Herring Fair, as well as the Stade Saturdays free events programme throughout the summer. And we'll continue our funding for other festivals, such as the International Chess Congress, St Leonards Festival, Hastings Week, and Hastings Carnival. And there's also all the other festivals organised by different groups, giving us our famous end-to-end programme throughout the year, including the Fat Tuesday music festival, Hastings Piano Concerto, Hastings International Musical Festival, Jack-in-the-Green, Hastings Folk Festival, Hastings Beer and Music Festival, Hastings Pride, Coastal Currents Visual Arts Festival, Hastings Performing Arts Festival, International Composers Festival, Hastings Bonfire, Hastings Storytelling Festival, Hastings Illustration Festival… and more!
Planning for the longer term, we'll be developing our plans for the White Rock Gardens area with a consultation on a 'Local Area Action Plan', which will help us develop new sport, leisure, and fitness facilities, along with a modern, multi-function performance venue. And there are more practical, day-to-day plans too, such as preparing to bring our street cleansing service back in-house to improve its responsiveness and keep the town cleaner.
This is only a taster - there will be more new ideas, new events, and new developments, all the things that make Hastings such an exciting place to be. One thing that's always true about Hastings is that life here is never dull!
Council Leader's column