After making the poor decision to close the Harold Place toilets earlier in the year, the Labour administration seems determined to deprive us all of the public conveniences forever as they have received approval at the planning committee to demolish the block all together. I remain, as many of you do, totally flabbergasted at this single minded determination to make the lives of all of us in the town that little bit more difficult and the town centre that little bit more inaccessible for some.
These toilets will not be fully replaced by the current administration and they expect visitors to use the facilities in local shops instead, hardly a suitable replacement. We must not forget that the Council closed these toilets due to apparent cost cutting measures, however the Council has published the final accounts for the year with a large surplus of funds which will go back into the reserve account.
Speaking of the accounts, this last month’s Audit Committee proved to be interesting as the Chairman of the Audit Committee Cllr John Rankin refused to sign off the end of year accounts! The external auditors Hastings Borough Council use have flagged up several problems with this year’s accounts including two key points. Firstly, the new retail park that the council has borrowed lavishly to buy this last year was put under the heading of ‘Economic Regeneration’ in the accounts instead of ‘Income Generation’. This was news to most people as we had, of course, only talked about the site in terms of what rental income could be gained from it and economic regeneration as only a fringe benefit, as the sites were already in use and not being brought back into use from a state of dereliction. The matter has taken some days to sort out before the accounts could finally be signed off.
In addition to this, and quite tellingly, the auditors also picked up on the weakness that the Council has in saving money. For some time now myself, along with the rest of the Conservative group, have been demanding that the Council go to greater lengths to save money, this would be rebuffed by Labour with the response that they already had an established process for saving money. This process has been found to be inadequate by the auditors and they have recommended that it is improved. Some would feel this was a vindication of the point they had been supporting, I feel saddened however that money has been wasted when it could have been saved and put to better use.
This brings us back to the toilets again. These were supposedly closed as the Council did not have the money to keep them open. However at the end of the year we have a large surplus in the accounts and the auditors are informing us that our savings procedure is not adequate. If the Labour Council were serious about keeping services running they should also be serious about finding savings.