Observer Comment: Council cuts - £70 less to spend on every single resident

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WE feared the worst when it was revealed Hasting Borough Council would be getting the largest funding dip of any local authority in the UK.

And this week those fears were realised. Almost 50 jobs will be shed as the council tries to deal with a 48 per cent cut over the next four years.

Council leader Jeremy Birch called has called it “the most difficult budget” he has ever been involved in. And the Labour figurehead said making decisions on where and what to trim back on cost him many a sleepless night. But it was clear since we broke the story last year that savings would have to be made across the board. There simply is not enough money to go round anymore.

Almost no department or service has avoided the axe - although some like regeneration and housing have been hit harder than most.

It is impossible to predict the impact the cuts will have on our town. But one thing is for certain, standards will drop. The council has £70 less to spend on every single resident. That cannot be made up by efficiency savings alone. Something has to give.

Our hope is that the council continues to support events like Jack-in-the-Green, Hastings Bonfire and Coastal Currents. It has already said the budget for helping these showcase events will be cut by £10,000. Were that to put the future of these hugely-popular dates at risk, it would be a crying shame.

At a time when people are losing jobs, facing uncertain futures and the harsh economic reality of life in Broke Britain, events which put a smile on people’s faces for free have never been so vital.

Cllr Birch says he has listened to the people who filled in the council’s Big Conversation survey and protected areas like free public toilets. However, a large chunk of locals wanted the authority to cut back on the more than £500,000 it gives to the White Rock Theatre by way of subsidies. The fact it cannot do so because it is locked in a decade long agreement with the venue’s operators HQ Theatres begs the question of what planet the council was living on when it signed away £5million of public money with a recession looming.

THE news that the public will have more of a say over controversial developments in town will be welcome for many townsfolk fed up with seeing areas of town bulldozed to make way for nondescript flats.

Various major planning applications which have come though the council’s planning committee in recent times have angered objectors, such as the upcoming Jerwood Gallery on The Stade and the new Asda store in Silverhill.

Others yet to be ruled upon such as the Archery Ground and the meadow at Robsack Wood have seen locals galvanise their efforts and form campaign groups.

Many people have become disaffected by the whole planning process and often claim its near impossible for them to fight big developers on an equal playing field.

For them, the setting up of a forum, where big applications are discussed between developer and the public before they are submitted formally - potentially ironing differences - is long overdue.

The organisers of last year’s triumphant Fat Tuesday are hoping to build on last year’s success and expand the celebrations.This year’s five-day festival unveiled in the Observer today is a welcome addition to the Hastings events calendar, and here’s hoping it will join the Jack-in-the-Green, the Hastings Bonfire, Old Town Carnival Week, The Seafood and Wine Festival and Hastings Week as a huge draw for locals and visitors alike. Now where did we put those masks...