Thousands sign church call for cuts rethink

Father Andrew Perry, Rev Annette Hawkins, Rt. Rev Wallace Benn, Rev Andrea Williams and John Hawkins in Downing Street
Father Andrew Perry, Rev Annette Hawkins, Rt. Rev Wallace Benn, Rev Andrea Williams and John Hawkins in Downing Street

THOUSANDS of concerned residents have joined a church campaign calling on the Government not to hammer Hastings with its public spending cuts.

On Friday, April 15, the Bishop of Lewes, the Right Reverend Wallace Benn, led a delegation up to Downing Street to hand over a petition with 3,200 signatures demanding a fairer deal for this corner of 1066 Country.

Most of the local churches took part in the campaign and organisers are demanding that the Government sets aside more resources to help Hastings and St Leonards cope with the huge spending cuts which critics fear will have a savage impact on the area, with 45 per cent of local people employed in the public sector.

The bishop told the Observer: “It’s so important that we stand up and say ‘No - this is not fair.’

“Hastings has so often got a raw deal in the past and with this petition it is the ordinary citizens who are speaking their concerns - I hope the Government will listen.”

The leaders of the campaign said they were already seeing the effects of the cuts on the most vulnerable sections of the community and hoped that by not having any political axe to grind their views would be taken seriously by the authorities.

Father Andrew Perry, the assistant rural dean who was part of the Westminster delegation, said: “We are proud of living in Hastings and the reason we’re involved with this petition is because we love the town and think it’s got so much going for it and we want the best for it.

“If the cuts go ahead it will be all of us - statutory services and the voluntary sector, including the churches - who will end up picking up the pieces.”

Both Father Perry and the Rt Rev Benn were among the speakers who addressed an anti-cuts rally held on Saturday.

Organised by Hastings Against the Cuts, the event saw an estimated 250 people march from the pier into Robertson Street where they heard from local figures including Cllr Jeremy Birch, the leader of Hastings Borough Council, and representatives from the PCS union. Last week organiser Sam Buckley said the cuts would be the biggest disaster for Hastings since the 1066 invasion by the marauding Norman army led by William the Conqueror.

Amber Rudd MP again defended the settlement handed down to Hastings and said the £2.8 million tranisitional grant would help the town weather the worst of the cuts. “I think both the council and myself have been fighting hard for additional funds and we have been getting them, even in the confines of there being less money available,” she said.