Hastings Borough Council is going into a steep deficit this year due to its failure over the last few years to make adequate savings, including job reductions. At last years budget council meeting, the leader of the Council proclaimed that we were “having a year off from austerity”. It was handy for the Labour administration to decide this during an election year and the spending has continued.
It’s now a year later, the election is a distant memory and the financial gap year that the Council has enjoyed is well and truly over. The Council will spend £1.8 million more than it will get in this year and that will be well over £2 million next year, all reserve funds will be drained shortly after that.
Despite running out of cash the council is planning on spending more money than even last year. The bringing in house of the street cleaning is proving to be expensive as is the new contract to collect the bins. These extra expenses seem to have caught the administration by surprise as little financial preparation has been done to absorb the costs. The leader of the Council has been quick to talk of a “perfect storm” in preparation for this year’s budget and yet, by declining to take responsibility last year, he has largely created the storm he is now decrying. With the draft budget all prepared it’s clear that they either cannot or refuse to take control of the serious financial situation that the Council is in. As well as deciding not to save enough money to avoid a deficit the Council has been disappointed to see that its much heralded income generation schemes have not produced the kind of money they were hoping for. At this stage we were anticipating huge incomes from energy generation and they were included in budgets. This has not yet materialised at all, except for a ghastly plan to industrialise the country park.
With Hastings Council planning to run a deficit it is conceding defeat and planning to fail. The administration is lacking the necessary moral courage to do the right thing: reduce expenditure now, make the difficult choices regarding job losses and save the Council. Failure to do so will mean that even essential services will be put at risk if action is not taken now, having a detrimental effect on the town for years to come. It is simply not good enough to badly manage the Council finances and then blame the government for your lack of planning.