The Foreshore Trust is offering fresh grants of up to £6,000 each to voluntary and community groups within Hastings & St. Leonards in what it calls Round 3 of its Small & Events Grant Programme. The time window for lodging of bids opened last Monday 27th April and will close three weeks later on 18th May. A total of around £45,000 is stated to be available for allocation.

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) is the sole Trustee under the governance scheme of the Trust, acting through a charities committee consisting of cabinet members, currently Cllrs Sue Beaney, Andy Batsford and Judy Rogers. Their press release states that the current grant call “will primarily fund organisations to help our communities respond to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis”. Applications will also be considered “from organisations which have been indirectly disadvantaged by the pandemic or which bring proposals to enhance social cohesion at the present time”. 

Charities Chair Cllr Beaney acknowledges that most community providers will have suffered from the current crisis. “But the aim here is to fill the gap left by other funding sources”, she says, “with a particular focus on groups that are helping in this moment with Hastings’ particular immediate local need.” It is intended that approvals will be notified by mid- to late-June, a much quicker turnaround than in the two previous rounds last year.

Income and Reserve

The Trust gains its regular income, from which it funds the grants programmes, from car parking charges and commercial rents at the seafront, including from the Flamingo amusement park and Hastings Adventure Golf mini-golf courses. Cllr Beaney admits that, given the virtual disappearance of tourist traffic in current circumstances, income is a “source of concern”; but she says she is unaware of any commercial tenants seeking rent adjustments so far and, in any event, there is no question of the Trust not being able to cover its current grants programme. 

The Trust does hold a hefty reserve fund of over £1m. Readers may remember that, a couple of years ago, this stash was eyed by the Friends of Hastings Pier as a potential source of funds for purchase of the pier, though the charities committee councillors then responsible showed no reciprocal interest. It seems much more likely that they will be compelled to dip into the reserve this year or next, depending on the length and depth of the slump in the wider tourist economy of Hastings – not just the short term pandemic conditions that bar visitors altogether, but the potentially much longer period of anxiety that may keep social distancing the norm in months, even years, to come. 

Financial responsibility for the Trust falls not only on the HBC councillors but also on an external Protector, who under the governance scheme is required to be a qualified accountant. This role has been taken for the last eleven years by a chartered accountant Christopher May. He retired last month, replaced for the next three years by James Cook. Cllr Beaney says the position was duly advertised, and Mr Cook was appointed “following the interview process having shown a long and successful career in business and accountancy”.

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