This week’s Hastings Borough Council Cabinet was interesting. The Labour led Council from next year is going to be running at a substantial deficit and steep reductions of service and job losses are inevitable. This was no surprise; however, the leadership of the Council has publicly at least been in denial about the dire financial situation.
Only just before the Borough Council elections this year Councillor Chowney said at Full Council that we were “having a year off from austerity”. We now clearly see that this is not the case and Council Officers have stated that services will have to shrink to accommodate the lack of funds in the accounts. What is surprising is the attitude of the Labour Councillors, they have had many opportunities to make spending reductions over the last few years and they have resolutely refused. All suggestions of savings made by Conservatives were met with open derision from Labour but now those savings will be imposed upon them by economic gravity and reality.
Over two successive budgets in 2017 and 2018 I made the case for savings which would have included some job reductions. These savings would have made the situation we are in now easier to deal with and the reductions last drastic. They would also have kept the Harold Place toilets open. These helpful amendments I produced were flatly voted against by Labour on what could only have been partisan grounds, perhaps they thought Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree was real.
The warnings have been more recent too, during the Summer the Council supported a new street cleaning contract which hopes (but doesn’t guarantee) to get our streets cleaner. This is a laudable aim and one which we support. However, we do not support its price tag of an extra £1million which I warned the Labour Councillors would mean inevitable job cuts elsewhere in the Council. They didn’t believe me and voted for it anyway and here we are now only in September and the slimming down of the authority will have to begin.
With the money running out let’s see what the Council is doing with its limited cash. A quick look on the Facebook Page for the Council shows a post about the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which helps low income families and is something I support. It is under threat and a consultation is currently underway. Just up from that is a post about a performance piece on the Stade. I enjoy the cultural activities that the Council pays for but they shouldn’t be prioritised over other services and schemes. Hastings Borough Council have had a financial reality check, they need to act on it.