This week’s full council agenda was shortened to allow councillors and staff to be able to go and watch England in the semi-final of the world cup. The truncated agenda had only one item on it which could not be deferred. The one item was very important to discuss and approve the new street cleaning contract for Hastings.
As reported in this newspaper last week there is a clear need and desire to improve the look of our town’s streets and bringing the service in-house instead of relying on an external contractor. This is an idea that the Conservatives are open to. If it means that we have a better outcome for the town, if the litter bins are emptied regularly and the roads swept and pavements hosed down then why not bring it in house?
Other Councils including some Conservative controlled councils have brought this service back in house with some success, maybe that could work here.
The proposals put in front of us were sufficiently detailed in many respects but there is a problem. Within the officer’s report there is no guarantee of a better service and outcome for the town. What there is included in the report is the huge extra cost of taking the service in-house. The cost equates to an extra 10% of the entire council budget across all departments. This huge sum of many hundreds of thousands of pounds is simply unaffordable without significant savings being made across the council.
Over the last 2 years I have asked repeatedly for the council to make reductions in its spending so that it can fulfil its current spending commitments in the long term. Many of these reductions that I propose would mean the deletion of posts within the council, job cuts. These have been sneered at by Labour Councillors over the course of 2 budget councils.
With the new street cleaning contract being given the go ahead and the new scale of our spending commitments it is apparent there will be no choice for the Labour administration to make job cuts of their own. Labour delaying by years means that to create these efficiencies, the cuts will have to be deeper and harder than they could have been if they had saved money earlier.
So here we are, a new dawn for the town’s street cleaning. It will be much more expensive than before and there is no guarantee that the streets will be cleaner. I for one look forward earnestly to see the results of this new venture and I suggest as council tax payers you watch the streets closely too.