If it’s May it must be the council’s annual meeting. We hold this in two parts – the first being the ceremonial with the election of the mayor and deputy mayor, Cllrs Roberts and Dowling respectively this year.
This was followed by a lunch (which we all paid for if anyone is in doubt) with food from several countries allowing us to slightly adapt our community cohesion slogan to “One Hastings, many flavours.” There was also entertainment from different communities and cultures within the town.
The second part of the annual meeting is the political part where I as council leader outline the programme for the year.
I outlined how over the next year Hastings Borough Council will continue to be an interventionist council, getting stuck in to improve the town and its residents’ prospects. It’s this willingness to act determinedly and decisively that marks out this council leadership from others.
We will compulsorily purchase the Pier to allow work to start to restore this key seafront structure. We will get 50 or more scruffy or derelict buildings improved by our grotbuster squad. We will continue our programme of bringing long-term empty homes back into use, including by the threat of compulsory purchase. Number 4 Southwater Road has just been compulsorily purchased and two more properties will be similarly dealt with very soon.
The council will license another 250 houses in multiple occupation in the next year, to improve conditions for private tenants. And in Central St Leonards the Coastal Space scheme will see a number of privately rented properties purchased and taken on by Amicus Horizon housing association.
The council will be looking into establishing its own lettings agency for accredited local landlords to ensure a better deal for them and their tenants. We will be studying how some other councils have gone done this path.
Our new street cleaning and waste collection contract starts this Summer and it will offer improvements to keeping the town clean but will also introduce doorstep recycling of glass and of a wider range of plastics. Seagull-proof bags will be distributed widely in those parts of town without wheelie bins.
We plan to step up the pressure for more 20mph speed limits in the borough on residential streets where there is the support from local residents. And our Switched On Hastings initiative will offer local people cheaper energy bills through collective switching to the company offering the best bulk purchase deal.
Our council has a programme for the revival of our town, for raising its image nationally especially by promoting our cultural offer, for attracting in new investment, for improving the employability of local people especially the young.
We will intervene to make Hastings and St Leonards cleaner, safer, more prosperous and more contented.