Hastings council urged to rethink vast assets

THE borough council has defended its empire of more than 700 assets at a time when it is battling huge Government funding cuts.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles this week attacked local councils across England for clinging on to thousands of assets that could be sold to limit the damage of budget cuts on frontline services.

And the Observer has learned Hastings Borough Council (HBC), which faces a plummet in Government funding of 48 per cent over the next four years, currently owns some 743 assets, including theatres, cafes and office buildings.

Local MP Amber Rudd urged the council to reconsider its holdings, and look at how sales could benefit local communities.

“I would like to see more of these assets being put in the hands of local people.

“The sort of structure I would really like to see more of is the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust, where the community is taking control.

“This does not have to be a charity, it can be on a working basis.”

Council leader Jeremy Birch said income generated by the assets was a valuable part of the authority’s budget, and that the council was slowly reducing its list.

Cllr Birch handed over the keys to Jackson Hall, Portland Place, to Hastings Voluntary Action in May, and is currently transferring Renaissance House, London Road, St Leonards, to local advice agencies.

“We must highlight the importance of some of our assets in terms of the income they generate, which in 2010/11 was £3,777,000,” he said.

The figure does not take into account any costs involved in running the assets.

Tourist landmarks like Hastings Castle, St Clements Caves and the East and West Hill lifts are all owned by the authority..

More surprising finds include an original Turner painting, the Carlisle Hotel and a helipad in the Country Park.

• To view a full list of Hastings Borough Council’s assets, click on the external link above right, or paste this link into a your browser window: http://www2.hastingstoday.co.uk/pdf/HBCassets.xls

• To download a free xls document viewer, paste this link into your browser window: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=10