Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stand up for Hastings

Opening the new Stade Hall community facility in the Old Town
As we all know there are “lies, damned lies and statistics” – to quote the 19th century prime minister Disraeli. One of the latest set of statistics suggests that Hastings has gone from the 31st most deprived town in the country in 2007 to the 19th in 2010. So are we really going backwards?

Well the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation is based on figures collected in 2008 – three years ago. And education is one of the areas included and our GCSE results have been transformed in those three years. Hillcrest got the most improved results in the country.

Also there are  25 less local authorities than in 2007 – so Hastings is 19th out of 326 rather than 31st our of 354.

But of course the facts do tell us something:

• Hastings is still economically and socially challenged.

• Turning round decades of decline takes quite a time.

• We still need the extra boost that external funds (from government, Europe, lottery) can give us.

So of course we are disappointed that the government has put back a decision on financing the Hastings-Bexhill Link Road till the end of the year. And we feel the same that Hastings £8 million bid to the government’s Regional Growth Fund was turned down. The government sent nearly all of the money  to the North but it is the government’s league table which put us at 19th most deprived.

Over the last ten years I can honestly say we made Hastings known in the corridors of power. That’s why we got our regeneration money, our university and our brand new further education college. Today standing up for Hastings is still a vital task.

And wherever I go round the town there are individuals and groups in the community doing just that.

The Hastings fishermen are continuing their fight against the unfairness of the quota system on smaller, under ten metre fleets. Sustaining our fishing industry isn’t just about protecting the jobs involved it’s about preserving an important part of the character of the town.

Hastings Trust is still hoping to receive £4.2 million from the government to invest in St Mary in the Castle as a youth managed cultural facility. And the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust will be hearing very soon about their bid to restore our pier.

Hastings is full of active, committed people determined to make it a better place – whatever those statistics say.