Observer Comment: People are more concerned about crime and cleanliness than theatre and museums

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ALL things considered, The Big Conversation is to be applauded.

It gave every household in town the opportunity to have their say on where they think the council could cut services, and which areas should be protected. With reports claiming that the council is set to lose anything between a third and a quarter of its budget, it seems fair that all of us living here were invited to air our views. But as the council has found out, the problem with listening to the people is that we don’t always say what the authorities want to hear.

Much has been made of the blossoming arts scene here in Hastings and St Leonards, so much so that the council has talked about using art and culture as the focus of the town’s future, with Hastings rebranded as an artlovers paradise built around the Jerwood Gallery. All very impressive - but it turns out local people are not so sure.

Cllr Kramer says that although it will inform the budget, councillors will “balance” the results with their own thoughts. So in essence, they can overrule things they don’t like. Does this make a mockery of the exercise? The council keeps saying how “delighted” they were with the number of responses, and it always made clear this was not a referendum, but if councillors know better then what was the point?

And is it any great surprise that people are more concerned about crime and cleanliness than theatre and museums? There are some very hard decisions now to make, but if councillors discard those views which don’t fit in with their vision for Hastings, then they will have an ever tougher time over the coming months.

MORE often than not the young people in this town are demonised.

Whether it’s failing schools, teenagers ending up in court, or general being up-to-no-good, not everyone in Hasting and St Leonards has positive things to say about local youngsters.

Here at the Observer we have often been accused of only highlighting the bad aspects of the town’s youth and in doing so, adding to the negativity. That is just not true. We are as aware as anyone how many talented, bright and polite young people live in this town. Too often a few bad apples see everyone tarred with the same brush.

One thing is for sure though is that it isn’t easy growing up round here. There isn’t a great deal for teenagers to do in 1066 Country - especially with money becoming increasingly tight.

That is why the news that the ambitious Myplace project has been given £4.2million in funding should be welcomed.

With money needing to be slashed, the temptation must have been to cut back on projects like the new youth hub. That would have been unfair on the town’s younger residents.

Hopefully now Hastings Trust can push ahead with its plans and the teenagers of this town will finally have somewhere they can call their own.

Well done to local singer-songwriter Ian Edwards whose star turn on stage in London saw him scoop a record deal.

Ian is well known around the pubs and clubs or 1066 Country and has worked hard for his break-through.

The Observer wishes him all the best in the run-up to his debut release next year. Although, we are not to sure about the James Blunt praise...