Tax campaigners accused Hastings council of wasting taxpayers’ money through unnecessary schemes during a protest outside its offices today (Friday, May 20).
The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) believes Hastings Borough Council has ‘frittered away’ £450,000 on temporary agency staff in nine months and wasted £113,710 signing only 18 properties to its letting agency.
Conservative party councillors joined the protest outside Aquila House calling for lower tax as Hastings has the second-highest council tax in Sussex.
TPA chief executive Jonathan Isaby said the group were in Hastings to put pressure on the council to end the LetStart Lettings project and think about every penny it spends.
“There are very few councils around the country where there aren’t examples of local politicians misspending taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“Today in Hastings, we’re highlighting some particular examples such as the bill for temporary agency staff which has run into hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last year or so.
“And this LetStart Lettings which the council has got itself embroiled in which has lost over £100,000 in its first year, it hasn’t signed up the number of properties anything like the number they said they were going to which is a huge waste of hard-earned council taxpayers’ money.”
The protestors gathered outside Aquila House before moving on to The Stade to raise awareness of the council’s ‘misspending’.
Council opposition leader Liam Atkins said the Tories joined the TPA’s campaign as they also want the hold the council’s spending to account, in particular LetStart Lettings.
“LetStart Lettings agency was claimed to be the cure for homelessness in Hastings and now I don’t think it is,” he said.
“We’re a year on, they’re missing they’re own targets with it, they’re meant to have had 60 to 100 units, they haven’t.
“We feel right now this isn’t the time to be setting up fancy letting agencies, they want to actually go on and create a business behind it and compete with the businesses up and down Havelock Road, they can’t do that, they should be sticking to the basics which are collecting the bins and keeping our streets clean.”
Temporary agency staff is another bugbear for TPA and Mr Isaby said it is a very expensive way of employing people used all over the country but it is not sustainable.
“You see this in council’s up and down the country, just because it happens elsewhere doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about things,” he said.
“It’s far better to establish which staff you need, which jobs you need fulfilling, who therefore should do those jobs and to employ them to do that rather than these temporary agency staff who are on very, very short-term contracts that end up costing a hell of a lot more.”
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