Localism is kicked into the long grass

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AFTER a two-month hiatus council tax demands will soon again hit the doormat.

These new bills may be frozen, but they nevertheless represent some of the highest charges seen in this country, coming at a time when many local residents are suffering serious deprivation.

Simply put: are these residents getting value for money and what popular measures are being initiated by Hastings Borough Council that help mitigate the high cost of local taxation?

To answer such questions we must put aside the inevitable grumbles about the ill-judged decimation of old Hastings (although it’s difficult to forget what happened to the Central Cricket Ground) and concentrate on the present.

There’s been the recent talk of opening up the countryside and the freedom to roam, together with the much-hyped approach to aggressive localism.

But are our councillors listening? Sadly not on the evidence, indeed somewhat perversely Hastings is running against these two strands of current national trend and thereby dragging residents along in a dark undertow.

Instead of supporting country walks much of the East Hill, the Firehills, and country park are covered in barbed-wire fencing with sections of the country park, once renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, having been transformed into a livestock farming area giving the visiting public a sense of being themselves corralled.

A decision to impose parking charges here is unlikely to increase the council’s popularity among hard-pressed taxpayers.

The barbecue and picnic site off Fairlight Road is almost surrounded by barbed-wire fencing where motorists face the novelty of paying to park and dog walkers are confronted by a herd of longhorn bulls that occupy newly-closed fields and once well-trodden footpaths.

Landowners may be delighted but none of this can have great voter appeal. Local decision making is not just out of touch, but is becoming increasingly remote and inaccessible to the general public with localism being kicked into the long grass.

As local powers are eroded councillors’ salaries and allowances appear on an ever upward curve.

MIKE MATTHEWS

Lower Park Road