New Hastings Borough Council (HBC) cabinet portfolio holders and their areas of responsibility have been named as follows:-

Cllr Kim Forward (leader): Strategy and Partnership Working
Cllr Colin Fitzgerald (deputy leader): Regeneration, Culture and Tourism
Cllr Peter Chowney: Financial Management and Estates
Cllr Judy Rogers: Equalities, Organisational Well-Being & Performance
Cllr Paul Barnett: Urban Environment and Community Safety
Cllr Maya Evans: Natural Environment and Leisure
Cllr Andy Batsford: Housing and Homelessness
Cllr Margi O’Callaghan: Chair of the Charity Committee.

Departed from cabinet, in addition to the pair of opposition councillors Rob Lee and Andy Patmore (see No Dissent), is Cllr Sue Beaney, former Charity chair.

Cllr Forward, in making the announcement, said:- “I have chosen a cabinet that I believe will best serve the needs of our cabinet and our town.” 

First meeting reviews Managing Director’s report

A first virtual meeting of the new team was convened with a public live stream last Monday 8th June. It started with discussion of a report prepared by Managing Director Jane Hartnell detailing the council’s performance in responding to the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The report referred to the services which had been suspended due to lockdown restrictions or to staff being reassigned to other priority areas, including closure of the cliff railways, all public conveniences, playgrounds, tennis courts, bowling greens, putting pitches, multi-use games areas and skate ramps. Work on the Country Park Visitor Centre had stopped. Pest control appointments were suspended. Some regeneration projects have paused.

However, the report centred on the community hub set up and operated by the council to address in particular increased “food poverty” – around 1,900 Hastings residents had been receiving direct food support, with a more than 50% increase of referrals to the food bank during April. Additional expenditure was being incurred in such areas as homelessness and Council Tax support. At the same time there has been a loss of income from, for example, car parks, licensing, planning fees, rentals, investment income and business rates. Ms Hartnell warned: “Should there be no further funding [from central government] the Council will inevitably face more challenging decisions on service levels and staff reductions, with a potential moratorium on spend.” 

The motion debated by the meeting was nevertheless upbeat, not to say self-congratulatory – that Cabinet welcome the contribution made by HBC staff, councillors and partners to meet the needs of the community during the pandemic, and recognise the progress, performance and potential next steps in this work.

Speaking in support, Cllr Forward told fellow cabinet members: “Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our staff and residents”. She claimed credit for the council and its community hub partners in the contributions they were making. “We stand with the people of this town. This report is testament to that commitment.”

Cllr Andy Batsford, on the housing front, also saluted the council’s achievement, along with the Seaview Project, in getting 45 homeless people off the street and into safe accommodation – “massive thanks to volunteers and staff…It makes me very proud to be a Hastonian”.

Cllr Barnett congratulated the IT team at HBC in managing its virtual communications. But at just that point in the proceedings the live stream failed. Further discussion of the motion was abandoned for another day. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.