Friday, 30 July 2010

Meeting the community

On Saturday evening July 17th I was to be found controlling the road barrier at the junction of St Margaret’s Road and Warrior Square (East) – the council leader really was manning a barricade. It was the St Leonards festival and as a local Central St Leonards councillor I was happy to do my stint as a steward. Now we look forward to Old Town Week. In fact every weekend there are events, festivals, fetes etc.

What they all have in common is that members of the community run them. The council might help out with publicity or road closures but if it wasn’t for volunteers giving up their time and effort none of them would happen.

Along with deputy leader Cllr Jay Kramer I have been meeting with voluntary groups over the last week. We have seen the Community Network, the Intercultural Organisation, the Rainbow Alliance, the Senior’s Forum, the Youth Council, the Inter-faith Forum, and the Disability Forum. We haven’t necessarily finished there. If any other community organisation would like to meet with us let us know.

The aim of the meetings was for us as the newly re-elected council leadership to outline our vision and plans. The policies we stood for election on have now been endorsed by the council and we believe we have a mandate to implement them. But we also wanted to hear the plans and priorities of these various groups and see where we could collaborate.

The discussions were very illuminating. The need for meeting places was a common theme and the need to be properly involved and not just treated as a consultation box to be ticked was raised. But they all welcomed the chance to let the council leadership know first hand what they felt.

However, we had another job – to make the community sector aware of the serious financial challenge facing the council and the town. With the government’s intention to cut public spending we are having to plan for a 25% cut in the council’s income. No area of our activity can be untouchable; we have to review everything we do.

But we want the people of Hastings to help us prioritise these activities. In September and October we will be holding a big conversation giving every resident the chance to tell us what council services they value the most and would least like to see reduced.

So when you see us out on all the community events feel free to let us know right now where you would like money to be directed in this difficult financial climate.

The photo shows myself and Mayor Cllr Kim Forward with artist Maggi Hambling, gallery director-designate Liz Gilmore and Jerwood Foundation chair Alan Grieve at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jerwood Gallery on the Stade.