‘Hastings cannot take brunt of cuts’ - church

The Right Reverand Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes
The Right Reverand Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes
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DOZENS of local churches are caling on the Government to re-think the spending cuts saying Hastings should not be hammered harder than other towns.

Rev Chris Key, the rural dean of Hastings and St Leonards, and The Right Rev Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, are organising a petition and have recruited more than 30 churches in the borough to the cause.

They are desperate to convince the authorities that the town cannot cope with a 47 per cent cut to the council’s budget currently being worked out.

Rev Key said: “We have to find some other means of supporting this town because the level of deprivation here means that those people who rely on Government support could end up with nothing. That cannot work.

“We try to work with people in the most need and we are seeing the impact already.

“As churches we do not stand to lose directly so we are able to speak out without any bias.

“We are not against all cuts but we are against Hastings taking the brunt.”

Rev Key said he was particularly worried that the Transitional Grant - which is being used to lessen the impact of the cuts - will end after two years leaving the town high and dry.

“We need people to make a noise. I would like to see the vast majority of people in Hastings and St Leonards sign the petition - the more people the better.”

The churches’ stance is sure to make waves as so far most of those speaking out against the cuts have been groups which stand to lose out financially, or groups with obvious pro-Labour bias.

But Amber Rudd MP said she is still committed to securing the best deal possible for Hastings.

“It is disappointing and despite my best efforts I am not sure the churches have given me a fair hearing,” she said.

“I do not feel they are acknowledging the other pieces Hastings is receiving. I feel Hastings is continuing to punch above its weight.

“Most people say to me they know Labour spent too much and they know there must be cuts but they don’t want the cuts to affect them. It’s the St Augustine approach to economics - ‘Lord make me chaste, but not yet.’

“Also I question what the churches are trying to achieve. I have been going after the Government on specific projects where I think it has got it wrong - such as cuts to legal aid and Citizens Advice Bureau funding for debt advice - and I am going to hold councils to account over their decisions.”

The church expects to publish the petition online within the next week, and will be holding an official launch event on Saturday, March 12.