Despite their claims of hardship, Hastings Borough Council has this year signed up to both a new street cleaning contract and a new bin collecting contract. Both are hugely more expensive than the services they were replacing, with both of the contracts combined costing about £1.4 million more than they were previously.
This will accelerate the erosion of reserve funds that the Council, in wiser times, had stowed away in case of emergency. The emergency that they are being used for is the result of poor budgeting over some years, despite being continually warned by the Conservatives that they were not doing enough to control spending or even work out how much basic services cost to run.
I have, over two successive budgets, argued that big savings should be made including on staffing, to ensure that core services are run effectively and efficiently. This was ignored and then even derided by the Labour administration at the time. This was a politically driven decision based on the Labour administration’s belief that they were not, under any circumstances, to reduce the size of the organisation. The reality of the finances has of course caught up with them eventually and they will now be forced to make quicker, deeper cuts to budgets than they would have done if they had taken Conservative advice in 2017, and made real savings sooner including moderate staff reductions.
As everyone knows, when faced with a problem that is only going to get worse, quick action is essential and that is exactly what has not happened here. Instead of good budgeting and planning for a secure financial future, the Labour administration of Hastings Council has instead pushed on with ever increasing expenditure, this includes expensive cultural projects which may have temporarily left Hastings culturally richer but financially poorer in the long term.
The long-term future Labour have secured for Hastings is one of huge debt, with £29 million of borrowing, some of which borrowed over 50 years to buy second and sometimes third-rate commercial property in order to divine a trickle of rent out of them, as long as the tenants stay. This is in addition to the housing company which has been set up which will cost £15 million and the decision for Hastings Borough Council to become an energy producer at the cost of £6 million, this provides us with a £50 million pound expenditure on risky ventures that we will be paying off for decades.