Observer Comment: Jeremy Birch has warned things are about to get tough

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IT has not been a good week for Hastings. The minute large cuts began looming on the horizon, questions were being asked about how well the Government understood the needs of local people.

Those questions turned to criticism this week as David Cameron’s coalition unveiled its spending plans and Hastings discovered it was being cut more than almost every other town in England.

Amber Rudd, as part of the Government, has to take this anger on the chin. It is fair to say the last seven days or so have been the most difficult of her short spell as MP.

Michael Foster, as we all know, helped attract tens of millions to 1066 Country under Labour’s leadership and was always going to be a hard act to follow. Nobody expected similar investment. But at the same time, nobody expected Hastings to be the joint worst hit council in the country.

Jeremy Birch has warned that things are about to get tough. That within the next two years the authority he leads will have to make some difficult decisions on where to save cash. And, he says, it is only going to get worse.

Ms Rudd however said she thought the deal was “an opportunity”. For what we are not quite clear. However you spin it, Hastings has lost out on vital funding.

The Conservative MP also voted in favour of the controversial tuition fee increase (page five), again toeing the party line that the plans are more progressive than those of the last government and that students will not have to pay any money back until they earn over £21,000.

That is easy for someone whose generation enjoyed the benefits of a university education without the subsequent debt. The reaction of local students is likely to be very different. And, lets not forget, many of these students will be first time voters come the next election.

Ms Rudd is clearly an ambitious lady, with rumoured aspirations of a ministerial job – making her unlikely to stick her head above the party parapet.

But what she, and indeed all politicians, should bear in mind is that first and foremost they speak for their constituents.

This week, it is fair to say, Ms Rudd has voiced an opinion totally opposite to the one held by the very people she serves.

A SURVEY has shown just over half of under fives living in deprived parts of Hastings are failing to get the exercise they need.

Even less youngsters take part in any physical activity once they get in from school. The sad truth is that it is far more tempting to plug into internet, fire up a games console or crash in front of the TV than run around a garden, or skip to the park with parents.

Hastings has long suffered problems with childhood obesity and findings like these will set alarm bells ringing for local NHS staff. Getting a good start in life is vital but it seems many local children are being denied.

It may be time consuming, but parents have a responsibility to raise their children in a healthy environment. There really is no excuse.

AN ANIMAL rescue centre has taken to tagging hedgehogs to monitor their behaviour. It is hoped that the findings will help protect future generations and ensure numbers don’t drop. With winter well under way the help could not have come at a better time. As any gardener will testify, hedgehogs are friendly neighbours as well as lovable little creatures. We wish the scheme all the best.