Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2011 here we come

Celebrating New Year's Eve on the beach at St Leonards
For me Hastings is a great place to celebrate the festive season. Kids, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law etc all on the beach on New Year’s Eve watching our fireworks go up (and other people’s which are usually better!). My family went to the pantomime and agreed it was one of the best we have had.

I hope other Hastings residents had a relaxing time too, But now we begin a new year and what will it mean for our town?

I was born and bred in Hastings. I have seen the setbacks like when the Bathing Pool closed, or when ITT and then Philips left town, or the times Hastings United have been relegated and of course the burning down of the Pier. And I have seen our successes too like the 900th celebration of our most famous year of 1066, the opening of Priory Meadow and of course our nationally funded regeneration programme bringing us the new college and the new health centre, the university and the new office spaces one of which will be filled with 800 Saga jobs.

And there are some real positives ahead in 2011 for Hastings. The nationally regarded Jerwood Gallery and the Stade open space will be ready for business by the Autumn. University Centre Hastings phase two will be opening its doors in September, while our refurbished sports centre and swimming pool will re-open this month. The council will be preparing compulsory purchases of the first six on its list of long-term empty homes and of course we await news on the Pier and remain ready to compulsory purchase it if funding appears likely.

But there is a black cloud hanging over the next 12 months and the next few years with the huge reduction in Hastings Borough Council’s funding from central government – the largest of any council in the country. This will very seriously impact on the services we provide and the jobs we can offer. I am not looking forward to presenting this year’s budget although I will do everything to limit compulsory redundancies and cuts to the key services local people have said they value the most.

Whatever happens I remain proud to represent the unique township of Hastings. The town is most of all its people. There's quirkiness about our town and perhaps edginess. There's a strong cultural scene in the town. Hastings isn’t just for Christmas.