Hastings beach lifeguard service to stay with RNLI

The RNLI will continue to provide lifeguards on Hastings seafront after council leaders agreed to extend its contract with the town. 

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 1:41 pm
Hastings lifeguards on duty pictured last summer

On Tuesday (April 6), Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet agreed to enter into a new three year contract with the RNLI for a beach lifeguard service, without going through competitive tendering.

The RNLI has been running the lifeguard service in Hastings since 2017 and has – according to council papers – saved eight lives in the last two years alone.

Cllr Margi O’Callahan said: “That’s eight more people who are walking the planet because of them and it is amazing they are still here. What an outstanding achievement.”

She added: “This is a service we just cannot be without. We need it, it is vital and it is an amazing, amazing service what these guys do – men and women – they go out there and save people. 

“And they save lives not just by jumping into the sea David Hasselhoff style, they save lives by talking to people as well and that education is absolutely vital.”

As part of the new contract, RNLI lifeguards are expected to be on the seafront again from May 29, with daily cover throughout the bank holiday and half-term holidays. 

There will then be a period of weekend-only cover between June 12 and July 10, after which there will be daily cover until Sunday, September 5.

After the peak period (July 10 to September 5), there will be again be weekend-only cover until the end of the season on September 24.

Over the three-year contract, the council says it expects to spend £125,000 on the service. 

Cllr Judy Rogers, whose cabinet portfolio includes performance, said: “What cost do you put on somebody’s life? 

“I don’t know who the people were that were saved, but they could be brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons [and] daughters.

“When a tragic accident happens like someone losing their life at sea, it is not just that person, it is that awful ripple effect that affects all the people around them and the people that they know.

“This year, more than any other year, people can’t wait to get back to the beaches. We know and hope we are going to have lots of visitors, staycations and we want people to feel they are happy and safe coming to Hastings.”

After the meeting, Kevin Boorman, the council’s marketing manager, explained: “The RNLI, the national charity dedicated to lifesaving at sea, is a ‘best practice’ operator providing the ‘gold standard’ of lifeguarding, and manages beach lifeguarding services for many local authorities around the country.

“The RNLI operate a joint funding arrangement to cover the costs associated with running the lifeguard service. They ask for a contribution from the council equivalent to the seasonal wage bill for the time the operational lifeguards spend patrolling, with the RNLI funding the remainder of the service, including management provision.

“The RNLI undertake all training, and provide the highest level of safety equipment. They ask for permission from the council to fundraise and promote the Institution on the beach during the lifeguarded season. This means that the RNLI can provide a better value service than we could on a like for like basis, and also that our lifeguards have access to a more focussed ‘saving lives at sea’ management support organisation than we are able to provide.

“The RNLI also operates the lifeguarding service at Camber Sands and Bexhill on behalf of Rother District Council, and Hastings fits well into this local structure.

“The performance of the RNLI lifeguards is to be commended, with eight lives saved, and 14 people rescued, and nearly 14 000 face to face ‘preventative actions’ in the last two years alone. This is an incredible achievement, especially because the 2020 season was much curtailed by Covid.

“I am delighted that our beaches will be in the safe hands of the RNLI for a further three years, benefitting our local community and visitors alike.”