Wage rise is little to smile about

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HOW much of a mess the Hastings economy is in can be seen in the council leader’s quote in last week’s Observer (Borough wages rise by £7 in the last five years).

Cllr Birch says findings by the Centre for Cities’ Small Business Outlook report ‘give us real hope for the future’. For the holder of the town’s budget portfolio to tell us a rise in average wages from £387 a week in 2007 to £394 a week in 2012 is acceptable shows what low levels of expectation our councillors enjoy.

In the study of UK towns and cities, performance by small and medium-sized enterprises is ranked by business starts, high and low growth, rateable values, levels of insolvency, housing affordability, educational attainment, dependence on local markets, etc. Results for Hastings are not good.

Back in 2002, when IT employers looked at Hastings as a destination for expansion, many denied that poor transport links would put them off because e-companies do not rely on road and rail as traditional companies do.

In 2003 Hastings was ‘approaching e-city status with high speed broadband available across town’. Fast internet connection promised to transform firms, allowing them ‘to work faster and more cost effectively than ever before’.

A strategy adviser at the council was ‘stunned by the amount of people wanting broadband’ and was ‘very pleased to be nearly there’. Some said we could match the growth of towns such as Bracknell which hosts many big IT firms.

In 2008 a report revealed a relationship between broadband connection speeds and several schools in Hastings, it was suggested 3,500 pupils’ education has been affected, yet in 2011 a survey by uSwitch ranked Hastings among the worst broadband blackspots in the country. Sure enough, in this latest report we rank 62nd out of 64 for broadband speeds.

Average wages in Hastings are 20 per cent below the national average. For Cllr Birch to claim ‘the really hard work that we, and others, have put into the regeneration of our town is starting to pay off’ is silly talk.

ERIC CHATER

Old London Road