ELECTIONS FOR HASTINGS COUNCIL are by halves, every two years. As we have two-councillor wards, that means one councillor in every ward is up for election every time. Unusual, but we like to be different in Hastings.
Different too in that we’re a Labour council with a comfortable majority, an island of red in the sea of South East England blue. There are currently 24 Labour councillors, and eight Conservative. However, 24 is the highest number of seats Labour has ever held on Hastings Council – we won one seat four years ago, for the first time, with a majority of two. A couple of other seats are vulnerable too. So it will be difficult to hang on to our current majority.
Hastings and Rye CLP has always considered itself to be on the left of the Labour Party, as does our Labour Group – around two thirds of the group members voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership elections, including all six cabinet members. In the town, our reputation and popularity is partly based on taking a clear stance on ‘left’ issues such as Syrian refugees, where we were one of the first towns to offer to accommodate refugee families. But it’s also because of our interventionist approach, compulsorily purchasing empty homes and forcing recalcitrant owners to improve their properties, under our ‘Grotbuster’ programme. We also played a big part in getting Hastings Pier re-opened, carrying out a complicated compulsory purchase of that, too, from a Panamanian company. That will open just before the elections.
There are plenty of other proactive initiatives we’ve taken, so we have a record we can be proud of, and can include in the detailed manifesto we publish. Initial canvass returns look promising, although they did in the General Election too, when we failed to take back the seat from Amber Rudd, to everyone’s surprise, including hers. But we’re hopeful that we’ve got it right this time, with all the national anti-Corbyn propaganda not much affecting the reaction on the doorstep. But we’re taking nothing for granted – there’s still a lot of work to do between now and 5 May!
Hastings Pier to be re-opened
is leader of Hastings Council and was Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Hastings and Rye