Row over cuts to the mayoralty

A HEATED row broke out between councillors during Monday night’s budget pre-cursor.

As well as setting the annual spending levels at Hastings Borough Council, members were also called on to debate the authority’s corporate plan for the coming 12 months - including a list of which areas to prioritise.

This year the controlling Labour group put forward six suggestions, including helping to promote economic growth, improving the cleanliness of the town, tackling climate change and establishing a culture of openness at the town hall.

It also promised to make the council a good organisation to work for - an irony not lost on some of the audience listening in the wake of 40 job losses at the authority.

The final pledge was to help narrow the gap in inequality which exists between some of the town’s poorer and more well off wards, which lead to criticism from the Tories opposite - not least because it was the only priority which differed in any great detail from those set out by for the former Conservative-run council.

Tory leader Cllr Peter Pragnell said: “Labour seem obsessed with the phrase ‘narrowing the gap’.

“The council should concentrate on making things better for everyone.”

He added that narrowing the gap between the town’s rich and poor would not necessarily succeed in bridging similar discrepancies between Hastings and the rest of East Sussex.

Revealing the draft plan, Cllr Jay Kramer - deputy leader of the council - said: “This is a visionary plan managed despite unprecedented cuts on our council. And she promised that Labour would do all it could to improve equality in Hastings - not just for the poor, but also for women, foreign nationals and other minority groups.

She also said that the shape of the plan had been set by the feedback given during the council’s Big Conversation survey which asked people what areas they felt most important.

However, that too was criticised by opposition councillors who said that the fact only 2,000 people had responded to the £17,000 survey meant campaign groups could potentially have hijacked the results.

Nevertheless, the Labour group voted through the new plan, to take immediate effect.