Sunday, 4 July 2010

Leader of the council again – for a whole two months. We want to meet with everyone and they want to talk with us. We are meeting with community groups, business groups, young people etc to explain our vision for the town and to listen to what they feel should be the priorities for Hastings. (If any community group feel they would like to let us know their thoughts please get in touch). We are also going to address the whole council workforce – the people actually doing the jobs in the council are probably the real experts.

But just going round all the community events of the last few weeks – in Alexandra Park, in Broomgrove, on the West Hill or in the America Ground – residents want to tell us how they feel things could improve and we are only too happy to listen.

Should the whole of Robertson Street be pedestrianised; are begging and street drinking been tackled hard enough; has Ore Village been overlooked; couldn’t we do more with the old Waterworks Road depot site; and of course parking and many other issues too numerous to list.

It certainly takes longer walking around town when you are in control – but isn’t leadership about hearing what others have to say and trying to integrate the best ideas with the policies you were elected on.

Becoming leader in 2010 is not going to be same though as when I first took the position ten years ago. That marked the start of the major regeneration investment in the town by the government. And the council was one of the best funded nationally.

With talk of 25% or even 40% public spending cuts all that has changed. Running the council now might be less about where would we like to spend more money and rather where might we have to spend less.

This is going to affect all of us. So after the Summer holidays we are going to hold a ‘Big Conversation’ with the people of the town – tell us what your priorities would be if government grants to the council are to be seriously cut back. What are the things you would never want to see reduced? We will be using the council’s About magazine and the local media to let you know just how difficult the situation could be and for you to let us know what you think can be done.

But for now the weather is still good, there are still lots of Summer activities to enjoy and Hastings is still a great place to live.

(The photo is of me being quizzed by the Helenswood Year 9 newsroom)


  1. While I can't claim an acquaintance with the town that goes back more than seven or so years, throughout that time I have never failed to be struck by both the sheer love of life that the town displays - anyone see the America Land celebration on Sunday? - and the potential that exists to make things better. So here are a few suggestions. Most are well known but I'll quickly run through a few of my favourites with apologies to anyone who has heard it before! :-)

    1. Probably not likely to happen but a decent fast route into London by rail would be nice, Hastings to London Bridge is OK but something fast towards Croydon, Clapham and Victoria would attract businesses. Brighton to London 55m, Hastings to London 1h 50m including trip to Eastbourne.

    2. We need the pier back, not just in its old form but with something calculated to get the punters onboard. If all else fails why not take to someone like JD Whetherspoons about a "Moon out at Sea" pub?

    3. The Castle, aside from the shame concerning the amount of it that has been lost, this could be a focal point for the tourists; I am thinking guided tours, actors in to play roles telling its story since the Norman invasion, could be a crowd pleaser? If all else fails, what about weekend or evening paintball tournaments "Timewarp Paintball!" If that doesn't appeal, what about live action dungeons and dragons with a team solving the mystery with assistance from some actors....

    4. Tricky one this, but we need to explain to shop owners that we live in a 24/7 society so closing for some reason or other on a Wednesday or leaving notes to say call this number is you want to get in, doesn't help. St Leonards has a couple of places like that and I recently saw one bookshop front in the old town which has a sign on it saying "no browsing."

    5. At the risk of putting my CAMRA membership on the line, does the town centre really need all those pubs? Saturday at times in the town centre resembles the outside of Millway FC as the boys in blue gear up for another session with the boozed-up brigade. Anyone who wants to know what outsiders think of us need only check out the online reviews for pubs in the town. I've reviewed a few myself and the result is frankly disappointing on all counts.

    There are lots of reasons for getting the punters in and parting with their money and I am convinced that it would not take much to improve the place. Its got a hell of a lot going for it now....Jack in the Green, Carnivals, the beer festival and the numerous events that always seem to be happening.. oh final thought lets get those events online somewhere easy to access so everyone knows and can tell their friends!

    Jeremy good luck to you and the team, you have my support!

  2. Jason Saunders6 July 2010 at 04:48

    Good to see a politician putting themselves out there.

  3. You need to have a clearer - ASk the leader section

    My question is this - every 2 months HBC publishes a list of all payments over £500 this should date, amount and the supplier to whom the payment was made

    You need a section to show what the payment was for otherwise this is a paper exercise with no value to local people

    Also the information should be published as an Excel spreadsheet and not as a pdf - since this would allow greater analysis of the data

  4. Hi Jeremy - the Minutes/Meetings/Agenda page has changed on the HBC website - whereas before we could look up the meetings schedule and see the Agenda for each meeting, all we get now are the dates of the meetings with no details at all....not good if you need to see what is going on and when. Why has this page changed?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Jason - thank you! I hope you find the blog interesting and useful.

    Mark - I agree! There are issues with the Council's finance system around how individual transactions are described and I've asked officers to look into this. You can also email and they will be happy to provide descriptions for individual transactions.

    Wanderjahre - some excellent suggestions and I agree with much of what you say. I'll make sure your comments are included in our Big Conversation about spending priorities for the town that's due to start after the Summer. Please keep checking this blog for updates!

  7. Hello Anonymous. As far as I can see this page hasn't changed. When you're on the meetings page make sure you select 'yes' from the option to show documents, you should then see all published agendas and reports for meetings. Let me know if this deals with your problem!

  8. Jeremy

    I've been trying to look at some plans from the recent Cabinet meeting, but have been met with the message that "images are too complex to be included on the website". To me this is daft, surely you can provide a link to pdf copies of plans?

  9. Hello Anonymous. You're quite right - it isn't particularly helpful!

    The Council's website is being modernised and will be relaunched at the end of this year with a much improved Meetings area which should deal with this problem.

    In the meantime, I've spoken to officers about putting up PDFs for Planning and Traffic Management Committee which is in hand.

    If you have any problems, drop a line and they'll be happy to help.

  10. Jeremy
    Wow - I've just read the Cabinet minutes on the East Sussex website and it looks as though they are going to remove the control of parking and highways from Hastings and centralise it somewhere in East Sussex!? Surely this will lead to our roads getting worse? Dont we as taxpayers have a right to vote in this? From where I lived before removing these services from the local council led to a reduction in the response times and a poorer maintenance. What is being done about this? Hastings should be looked after by HAstings!!

  11. Hello Wanderjahre,

    We do continue to press for improved and faster rail connections North, East and West. This includes campaigning for the reinstatement of the Willingdon Chord which would remove the necessity of Hastings/Victoria trains going in and out of Eastbourne.

    The potential compulsory purchase of the Pier as a prelude to its restoration comes up at the council's cabinet on Monday 12th July.

    The council has been looking for potential external sources of finance which it then could match to improve access to and the visitor experience within Hastings Castle.

    Finally there is a saturation policy within the town centre which means the council starts from the presumption that no further alcohol licenses will be issued there.

  12. Hello again Anonymous,

    You're right the County Council has taken the highway responsiblity back from Hastings borough council bar traffic management - yellow lines, traffic orders etc.

    On the parking front they have decided to examine the financial benefits (to them) and the implications for Hastings of taking this back too. A final decision will then be made when they have this additional information.

    The implications would be - appeals against parking fines would not be dealt with in Hastings, decicions on parking times and charges would not be made by anyone in Hastings and parking enforcement is likely to be carried out by a private company.

  13. Hi Jeremey,

    Following your attendance at the White Rock and America Ground Business Group meeting, have you managed to look into providing suitable residential parking or the suggestion that the Carlisle underground car park be made available?

  14. Hastings and st Leonards has its own natural charm as well as some great additions with the assistance of regeneration. What it suffers from unfortunately is too many people that do not want to contribute to society and in addition want to disrupt it for the ones who do. I do have alot to do with the town and sadly I feel vulnerable as early as 7pm in the evenings, even after spending a whole day out in London the only time that we experienced any threat was when returning to the town. It is unfair to Hastings and it's residents and visitors. Yes we could do with dramatic increased transport links, this would assist with tourism, allow others to commute so they could bring money back into the town and free jobs for people who need/ want to work in town. Please can you stop this yob culture, and one thing PLease let me stress this is not always the young, infact at times far from it. We need leisure facilities desperately. We are nowan expanding student town, we need an updated cinema,bowling and such facilities, not take leisuremoney out to Eastbourne and Rother. Without Knocking our tourism, as we have some wonderful guest houses and B and B's, we require large hotels with Parking and teh facilities demanded by our visitors, Revenue for the town. We have many events in the town and for that we are incredibly lucky however visitors need things to do in the evenings and times when the events are not on. Please dont think I am knocking the council or tourism because the basics are in place, but we need to meet the need of the public. Claremont is one of our often hidden Gems, it should be celebrated as a highlight, some great businesses and services down there. Sorry to say Queens Road still as shabby as ever. Where Argosand that parade of shops are, quite out of keeping for our seafront. Jerwodd, I am quite excited to see what happens, I am neither for or against, at the end of the day it is being bulit lets now support it and make it work for our town. Visitors and some residents want the pier, but we need to do something to make it an attraction,I am excited to hear suggestions and plans. I love this town for its quirky character and dont want to hear huff and puff, I want to see real action what the people want and need, and more importantly want the town needs. Thank you.

  15. The council wants to save money, then why is the information centre run so badly. The money having so many council workers, late in the evening and weekends is a waste. I go in there often during the week and there are more staff than customers. Some people are really helpful in there but some are just not interested in helping anyone. I know the pier is important to the town but how much money is it going to take to get it sorted? Is this a good idea with the recession?

  16. I would liek to see a park and ride for Hastings. Perhaps a site could be up at Queensway area. This would free up lots of spaces by those who work in the town and assist visitors alike. Town like Guildford have been running them for yers. The bus fares are low and cars kept save. It would be great to get some of the cars out of the town. Trams would even be better, just like the system in Nottingham, but that is just for selfish reasons They just facinate me!!!! However I really believe the park and Ride would result in perhaps more pedestrainised areas and less pollution and of course safety. Perhaps even ease congestion.

  17. Hi Jeremy,
    I am wondering if you are going to answer my post above?

  18. What is the council proposing to do about fraud? With cuts in job markets I am sure there will be increased fraud commited. ARe there plans to increase the fraud for benefits and will it go on to cover more counciltax fraud. E.g people claiming discounts that they are not entitled to. What about internal fraud? It is far time that every penny is counted and anything of revenue that is lost reclaimed back. Why is not every case taken forward as an example. If every case of fraud was tackled it would deter others. I pay my council tax to HAstings and want to ensure that others dont defraud our council.

  19. Hello Jeremy - when is the Council going to introduce video facilities at council meetings? At present the Minutes of meetings contain the basic issues discussed - if video was installed, there would be no confusion as to what was discussed/decided etc especially by the public attendees at these meetings. ESCC already have this facility why not Hastings?

  20. Hello Anonymous,
    You are certainly busy!
    Park and ride has been looked at for Hastings. The cautions I would raise are:
    you need a large green field on the edge of town or more than one if you want park and ride from different directions. These green fields would then have to be concreted over and they are likely to be in the Rother council area.
    Park and ride is expensive to run - you need a bus every ten minutes to and fro.
    You need a large daily influx of people to work or visit. Do we have the same daily numbers as towns like Bath which have park and ride.
    Your comments about the evenings, including early evenings, in the town centre are well made. We are talking with the police about anti-social behaviour. But I also agree we need more leisure activity - a bowling alley or a multiplex would be great.

  21. Hi Jeremy,
    The Anon comments are not from one person, mine are the ones about residential parking in the Carlisle underground car park. I am only anon because I don't understand how to put my name, so I will put it here.
    Lorna Lloyd

  22. You question in your most recent blog as to whether street drinking and begging are being tackled effectively. I also notice in the observer that the Police's 'annual clean up' of the sea front is beginning again.
    Having had experience of working to tackle street drinking and other issues in central London, I am curious to know what measures are being taken to tackle this issue year round? I say this as this 'annual' approach usually leads to weekly Observer reports of street drinkers being taken to court for breaching their asbo's and often ending up with custodial sentences, an expensive process that is also possibly 'unfair' as the 'annual' implies that the individual has in all probability been drinking with impunity during the winter months.
    Enforcement should be part of the response to anti-social street activity but in the case of often 'vulnerable' street drinkers and beggars, it is more effective and ultimately cheaper if it is consistent and coupled with effective social care interventions.

  23. Firstly - this is a not a really user friendly forum to communicate with you. At least on "ask the leader" I could pose my own question on any given topic. But here it appears I have to follow a thread of comments to which my topic may not be relevant.

    I want to ask you about The Pier. Please can you explain what initiatives will now not go ahead as a result of the council taking £200,000 from the Strategic Seaside Initiative to fund the CPO?

    Where will the funding come from if the CPO proceedings cost more than £200,000?

    Additionally, surely 3000 signatures from a registered electorate of 63,000+ is not representative of the whole town's opinion of what should happen to the pier. Any comments for the silent 60,000 voters Jeremy?

  24. Hello Anonymous (it would be really helpful when I'm replying if people could post up a first name so others can link my replies to the original comments!). I am an advocate of video facilities at Council meetings because, as you point out, it helps achieve greater transparency and accountability - above and beyond that offered by standard minute taking. Unfortunately, at a time when our budgets are under incredible pressure, it may be something that we need to put on the back burner for a while. The County Council system, which is by far the best solution, is beyond our current means. The low cost solution used to record our Annual Council meeting earlier in the year is fine for capturing speeches but wouldn't really work for long meetings (just take a look on our You Tube channel and you'll see what I mean!

  25. I have come to the conclusion there are a lot of people called 'Anonymous'. So whoever you are that asked about the Pier here is the answer.
    The council has set aside "up to £200,000" for legal and other fees for the compulsory purchase of the Pier. The £200,000 is additional money awaraded to the town under the previous government's Seaside Initiative which was actually launched in Hastings and specifically mentioned "iconic piers."
    Ownership or even the propspect of ownership (which there now is) allows the Pier Trust to bid for the real money to restore the Pier. There may be risks in doing this but surely there is greater risk in just leaving the building to continue to deteriorate under the ownership of a disinterested, absent owner. It undermines the work we are doing with grotbusters etc to raise the image of the town.
    Does anyone thinn 3,000 people would sign a petition to leave it as it is or to demolish it (itself a costly business).

  26. Please bring back the Ask the Leader facility.
    This Blog is useful for receiving information but does not allow residents to pose questions in a structured and auditable way.

  27. Jeremy

    This is a follow on from the Pier thread. My name is Simon if that helps you, but I suspect the fact that your blog is so un-user friendly is the reason threads are difficult to follow, nothing to do with anonimity! A point I raised in my original contribution and one which you chose to side step.

    My original question referred to the fact that minutes logged on your website from Cabinet meeting held on July 12 state clearly that up to £200,000 would be made available to fund the CPO, my question was if the CPO costs more than £200,000, where will this money come from?

    I'm afraid you cannot say this decision is representative of the town if you are only basing it on a 3000 signature petition. 3000 is less than 5% of the Hastings electorate!
    You could argue that as 95% of voters did not sign a petition, that their opinion has been expressed. Perhaps you should ask them in some form. Anecdotal evidence from people I have spoken to (like you, not 63,000 of them) have stated that they are happy for it to be demolished and money spent on more urgent issues within the town

    Demolition may be expensive, but is a one off cost, financing the pier for the future certainly will not be.

    I look forward to your answers, especially as you can now address them to me personally.

  28. Dear Simon (Anonymous)
    The cost of demolition is estimated to be £4million. No-one could bid to heritage lottery etc to demolish it. The Pier Trust believe they can raise money from the lottery and other sources to start the restoration. That money would only be available for that purpose. There is no money being spent on the Pier that would otherwise be available to spend on "more urgent issues."

  29. In response to the comment from the other Anonymous (!) about Ask the Leader, I felt that Ask the Leader had run its course and the superior stats for this blog (over 800 unique visitors in just two weeks) indicate that people are voting with their visits! You do, however, make a very good point about discussion threads and being able to respond to specific comments (as this long stream of comments demonstrates!). I've looked into fixing this, have made some changes and, after my next post, I should be able to put replies next to relevant comments and introduce some degree of threading. I hope that helps you, and please do keep coming back to the blog!

  30. Hello! This is just a response to the query above about fraud (I'll be glad when the threaded comments module is up and running on my next post!!!).

    The Council has an established Audit and Investigations Department where the Audit section deals with internal fraud and investigations are dedicated to Housing Benefit and Council Tax fraud.

    The Investigations section has a team of properly motivated, professionally accredited in vestigators (P.I.N.S. qualified / Professionalism in Security) whose skills can be used to investigate all types of fraud against Hastings BC. Cases are investigated in accordance with legislation to make sure they're all to a prosecution standard. We work closely with our partners at other Local Authorities, the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies.

    The Council also takes part in national data-matching including the National Fraud Initiative and Housing Benefit Matching Service and will soon embark on a new systems match designed to identify adults not declared in households.

    Our Revenues & Benefits department is conducting a targeted National Fraud Initiative check to identify cases where a Single Person Discount has been incorrectly claimed. So far, more than £100,000 has been found for recovery.

    We have an advertised 24hr local 01424 hotline and a National Free phone number is also available via the Department for Work and Pensions.

    Last year 300 Benefit cases were investigated and 63 sanctions applied including 22 prosecutions, most of which featured on Local Radio News Reports and were reported in the local newspaper.

  31. Hi Jeremy - I agree with the comments about bringing back the Ask The Leader section - why don't you have both sites? Ask the Leader was succinct, easy to read with questions answered in a concise manner (well usually!) - residents questions do not lend themselves to a "blog" format - many of us just want an answer, not a convuluted chat show...and many sign themselves as "annonymous" due to the fact that the site does not make it clear how to sign a name - so here goes - all the best Patsy.....

  32. I think Patsy may have a point, there may be too much happening here for a simple blog. What about getting the technical lads and lasses at HBC to come up with a 'bullet board' type format and you can break up the issues in a meaningful way. I think people'll probably need to register as a user but hopefully that won't cause people too many problems. As for names here, you have the option to use an ID from either Google, LiveJournal, Wordpress, Typepad, AIM or OpenID, but you can also opt for name/URL which may be of some assistance

  33. Jeremy

    Simon here again and yet again I want to talk about the pier. I am giving you the opportunity again to explain to me the democracy behind the CPO and I have subsequent questions too.

    My original post was about why the council felt they needed to go for the CPO option based on what seemed to be a 3000 name petition when the electorate in Hastings was 63000+. It just does not seem representative to me. I also wanted to know what happens if the cost of the CPO is over £200,000 - does that extra money have to come from Council Tax Payers? Where will that money come from?

    Finally - if once the council is in posession of the pier, but it collapses before it is made over to The Pier Trust, who will be responsible for the Health and Safety Issues associated with it and who will be responsible for the clear up costs? Council Tax payers? or just the 3,000 who decided they wanted the pier through the petition?

    I look forward to your response and our continuing dialogue.


  34. Simon,
    It might be helpful if you had a look at the report that about the Pier that went to the council's July cabinet meeting: