The election and all that door-knocking and leafleting is now over. Obviously I am pleased with the increased majority on the council and very proud to have been elected leader again at the council’s annual meeting.
At the meeting I outlined the programme of activity for the next year which is programme was made up of the policies put before the people of the town in the local elections and which gained their overwhelming approval.
Hastings Borough Council will continue to be an interventionist council. What’s different about us is we don’t just believe in administering services, we believe in getting stuck in and trying to change the town and improve it.
So our grotbuster squad will continue to get stuck in to run-down and derelict properties around the town. We will continue our programme of compulsory purchase of long-term empty homes with 27 more being brought before our July cabinet meeting for action. In July we will also be discussing licensing all privately-rented property at least in those parts of the town where the private rented sector is particularly large.
I also announced some new initiatives like the setting up of a confidential tenants hotline so those in living in poor conditions could feel safe to report problems which will the council will then act on, the installation of a solar array on the redundant Pebsham tip to generate electricity and a guarantee of no badger culling on council land.
I promised a new visitor centre for the Country Park, further improvements to the seafront especially the Pier and exciting new plans for White Rock Baths and pledged that everything would be done to ensure our bathing water meets EU standards.
But many people will want to know what can be done to make our town more prosperous and to create more jobs for them and their families. So I announced the appointment by the council of an anti-poverty co-ordinator who will bring together all the activities of different organisations in the town to tackle poverty.
And in addition the appointment of a cultural co-ordinator whose job is to plan and raise the money for a national cultural festival in 2016 – the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
Promoting Hastings as a cultural hub brings visitors and income but also is attracting creative businesses and creative individuals to relocate here. But equally we want to promote Hastings as a centre for high-tech engineering based on the number of firms we already have in this sector. And the council has secured European Assisted Area Status which can offer financial support to businesses growing or moving to the town.
I concluded by reminding councillors of the serious financial challenges facing the council with the loss of 50% of its government grant to fund local services. I hope the people of the town will work with the council to ensure those services they cherish the most and that could bring the most benefit to the town are protected and to let the council know their opinions as we make some difficult decisions.