Friday, 24 December 2010

End of year report

The year has not ended too well. Snow and ice have left some residents marooned in their homes or badly disrupted their travel plans. Although council staff and our contractors have done their best with clearing pavements and important roads.

The year hasn’t ended well for Hastings Borough Council either with the news that we are in the premier league of councils facing the maximum cut in government grant. Unfortunately no-one can clear that problem from our doorstep – we are left with it.

But as to the 12 months just ending, after the May elections the council adopted a new programme for the year and significant progress has been made in a number of the commitments it included.

The council has agreed to compulsorily purchase seven homes that have been left empty for between six and 17 years. In fact one has already been sold and the council will now be checking to make sure the new owner brings it back into use promptly.

We expect to bring in an additional tough licensing scheme for privately rented accommodation to protect tenants from bad landlords as we committed.

Progress is being made on the adoption of an anti-poverty strategy that was promised – it will be out for consultation in the Spring. Work has also started on an equalities charter. Councillors and the Disability Forum toured the town centre to check on the access for disabled people.

A report will go to the January cabinet to establish a system of planning forums where developers of big projects will meet with the local community before they submit their final planning application.

We have introduced a new culture of openness into the Town Hall. The council now published online details of all expenditure over £500 and the salaries of top council officers, as well as the register of members’ interests.

The council has listened to public priorities and got tough on fly-tippers, flyposters and on dog-owners who don’t clear up after their animals – remember the “we’re not taking your s**t any more” campaign in the Summer.

We pledged to compulsorily purchase Hastings Pier and are prepared to see it through along with the Pier Trust’s bid for heritage lottery money. The council has of course paid for the clear-up and demolition of the wreckage and for keeping the site secure.

We also pledged to continue support for Active Hastings which brings fitness opportunities for different parts to the town. With that support they have just been awarded another £275,000. On top of that a major refurbishment is currently underway at Summerfields sports centre.

We also promised to rebuild public trust and confidence in politics. I hope the Big Conversation with its 2,500 responses and how we now handle the budget pressures will go some way to achieving this.

But whatever is thrown at us our principles stand – of valuing staff, doing our best to protect the vulnerable and making sure Hastings continues to improve.