Town’s weather service is set to be scrapped

21/2/13- Borough Meteorologist David Powell at the St Leonards weather kiosk.
21/2/13- Borough Meteorologist David Powell at the St Leonards weather kiosk.

THE council’s weather service, which monitors the town’s rainfall, hours of sunshine and tides is set to be scrapped after more than 130 years.

Hastings Borough Council employs a meteorologist, together with three assistants, who could all face the axe if the recommendation is given the go-ahead at next Wednesday’s budget meeting.

All four work part-time on a rota basis and the service costs £8,000 a year to run.

Many people, such as fishermen, use the tide data provided by the authority. The weather and high tides are also printed in the Observer each week.

Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said the authority was having to face making tough decisions in the wake of losing £1.7 million in Government funding, as reported in the Observer last month.

He said: “We are carrying out budget reductions across the whole council and the weather service is something that we have had to look at.

“We are hoping we can continue this service because there are a lot of people in Hastings who would be interested in operating it voluntarily. It does not require a huge amount of work.”

David Powell, borough meteorologist, has been gathering weather data for Hastings for more than 15 years.

He said: “It would be a great shame if the service did stop as it has been operating for 138 years since 1875.

“If it is stopped it may never be started up again.

“We supply more than the necessary information to the Met Office and Weathernet, the Environment Agency, as well as Weather magazine, produced by the Royal Meteorological Society.

“The only time we did not supply information was during the war.”

Kevin Boorman, the council’s spokesman and marketing manager, said: “It would obviously be great if we could get volunteers to help us run this service from April, it’s always great to see Hastings being the hottest or sunniest place in the country.”

Last month the authority announced it was cutting 40 jobs because of the cut in funding from the Government.

Out of the 40 posts, 12 which were vacant will now be withdrawn permanently.

It is the second major wave of cuts in two years after the authority shed up to 40 posts in January 2011.

Cllr Birch warned the council was still ‘teetering on the brink’, warning next year would be worse.

The council’s budget gap for 2013-14 starts at £3.2 million.

The following financial year it will face a £1.2 million gap in funding and up to £2.5 million for 2015/16.

Next month the council is getting £975,000 in the form of a Government grant to support cash-strapped councils.