The following articles are party political announcements on behalf of the Liberal Democrat ahead of local council elections:

They say that time flies when you are having fun… and the two years since Hastings last elected its Borough Council do seem to have flown. But although gratitude is an important part of this life, many people’s ‘fun’ has been rather marred by the machinations of the Nasty Party, back in unfettered power.

Of course there is the chance for us all to send the Conservatives a strong message of opposition to their policies on 3rd May. I am hopeful that this will happen up and down the country. It is widely-predicted in London, and I believe it very unlikely that they will make any progress in Hastings and St Leonards, despite all the different drone Twitter feeds asking us to become #Ruddettes, or whatever they are.

Which means that we will have a Labour Council again on 4th May. The question is… will it be a Labour Council that reverts to group-think, without any sort of constructive, intelligent opposition to keep it in check? Or will our Borough have elected a more diverse, progressive Council, reflecting a wider range of opinion and able to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made over the course of the last two years? Back in 2016, you may recall, the Labour Party took 75% of the Council seats with the support of around 50% of those who voted.

And there certainly have been mistakes from the Chown Hall. Whether it be planning gaffes on Station Plaza, Ecclesbourne Glen or the Queensway Gateway Road. Or the closing of the Harold Place toilets.

Or the failure to build enough social and affordable housing, or to disclose viability assessments. Or to impose community infrastructure levies. Or the uncritical support of Sea Change projects. We all make mistakes sometimes. Even Liberal Democrats make mistakes…

But Labour is an authoritarian party. And when it makes mistakes it appears not to encourage reflexivity and debate from within its own ranks. Despite the laid-back manner of the Leader of the Council, the ruling party has a tendency to prefer command and control to the empowerment of neighbourhoods. Which is, by the way, what Liberal Democrats are about: the empowerment of neighbourhoods. Specifically, the empowerment of our most deprived neighbourhoods.

Lib Dems believe that there has been too much store placed on developer-led, public realm bling and too little focus on joining up services and providing intensive interventions for our most disadvantaged individuals and families. That is why despite the hundreds of millions of regeneration pounds poured into the town over the past 20 years, we still languish in the national deprivation tables.

The kind of leadership which gives away decision-making power to neighbourhoods, and lobbies other authorities and agencies to work smarter in our Borough, is the kind of leadership that Liberal Democrats would wish to see in action. It would be a different way of doing business. And that is why we will be fielding candidates in all of the Borough’s 16 wards on 3rd May. All except Old Hastings, that is, where we have decided of our own accord not to stand in the way of a Green campaign against the Hastings Harbour Quarter development, which we also oppose.

Because Liberal Democrats like to work with others. We don’t really enjoy tribal politics. Where we see areas of common cause – and we see much common cause with the Greens – we like to work collaboratively. The Green Party is anti-Brexit, it is in favour of voting reform, it is environmentalist just like us Lib Dems. We agree that the Labour Cabinet needs effective scrutiny (which it doesn’t get it from the Tories) so we back the candidacies of Julia Hilton and Andrea Needham because, if elected, they will be excellent councillors and our municipal life will be the richer for it.

So let me encourage you to vote on 3rd May. And if you have not yet registered to vote, please do so at www.gov.uk. Particularly do so if you are a European Union national, because you are entitled to vote at the Hastings Borough Council election, and we would be delighted if you wanted to show your disdain for the Conservative Government by voting for an anti-Brexit party – so there is increasing evidence that the country would wish to change its mind and avoid the coming tragedy of Brexit.

Our democracy is broken at every level. But Liberals are optimists – radical optimists. We have not given up on our vision of a freer, fairer, future for this country. With your help, we can still make that pluralist dream come true.

 

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