Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

One of many candidates standing for the first time in Hastings’ upcoming local elections is Josh Matthews, Labour’s candidate in Central St Leonards.

Most unpredictable local elections in years loom on 2 May

With candidates for Hastings’ upcoming local elections on 2 May now revealed, HOT’s election commentator Chris Connelley casts his eye over the runners and riders. It’s the electorate’s first chance to give their views on Labour’s split and the appearance in town of Reform UK, not to mention the Greens’ leadership of the council, making these the most unpredictable local elections for years.

Nominations have now closed for Hastings Borough Council elections on 2 May, with 64 candidates registered for the 16 seats being contested.

Labour, Conservatives and the Greens are putting up candidates in every ward, with Reform UK, the Liberal Democrats and the new Hastings Independents, formed by eight councillors who broke away from Labour just before Christmans, standing partial slates.

Reform UK are running in just three wards, fewer than first expected, and the Liberal Democrats are putting up candidates in eight. The Independents, whose efforts to register their new party name in time to appear on ballot papers proved unsuccessful, are standing as plain independents in 8 wards, having dropped their ninth candidate in Ashdown following concerns about language deployed on social media posts.

In addition Richard Haberkost, another independent candidate, unconnected with the Independents group, is on the ballot paper in Central St Leonards, the ward that is widely expected to deliver one of the most competitive contests.

Steph Warren, Hastings Independents’ candidate in Central St Leonards (photo: Chris Connelley).

It currently has split representation, with one Labour and one Green councillor. Trevor Webb, the ward’s veteran Labour representative, has moved to stand in neighbouring West St Leonards, making way for newcomer Josh Matthews, a local lad who works in a family business.

He is up against educational consultant Adele Bates for the Greens, a longstanding party member who campaigned for outgoing Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas when she lived in the city before moving to St Leonards, and artist and gallerist Steph Warren for the Independents in a ward that is home to one of the largest creative communities in the country.

Another ward to watch is Hollington, where Maya Evans, the former deputy leader of the Council before jumping ship to form the Hastings Independents, is the only one of the eight defecting councillors needing to defend her seat this year. She will be hoping that her local record will see her over the line in this traditionally safe Labour ward in what will be the major test of the Independents’ electoral appeal. She faces journalist turned teacher, Danuta Keane, for Labour.

Last time round

When these seats were last contested in 2021, the Conservatives did well, securing eight of them while Labour picked up seven. This was also the year that saw the Greens take their first seat on the borough council in Old Hastings ward, following a landslide swing which saw their group leader, now council leader Julia Hilton, secure over 50% of the vote.

The Greens picked up a further three seats in 2022 and will be hoping to build on this base in May. They are actively campaigning in eight wards, including Castle, where they missed out by just five votes last time, and the classic swing seat of Ore, where their candidate Jo Walker is going head-to-head with Labour group leader, Heather Bishop, who has moved back to a ward she previously represented after serving the last electoral term in Gensing. Hilton herself is the only Green councillor up for re-election.

Greens canvassing in Central St Leonards with their candidate Adele Bates (front, centre).

Reform UK is concentrating its efforts on Conservative seats in Silverhill, Maze Hill and Ashdown. Its single current councillor Lucian Fernando, who crossed the floor from the Conservatives in 2023, will be standing again in Silverhill, with newcomer Thee Kuga taking up the challenge in Ashdown. The party’s third candidate, Paul Murphy, makes his debut for Reform UK, having stood in previous local elections under Conservative, UKIP and Labour colours.

With dire polling nationally, the Conservatives will be stealing themselves for a difficult night, but will be hoping to hold on to their heartland wards in Ashdown, Conquest and Maze Hill.

New faces

Whatever the final make-up of the council, about which authoritative predictions are especially difficult to make this year given the recent volatility in local affiliations and the presence of two new electoral forces on the ballot paper, there will be many new faces taking their seat in the council chamber.

Labour’s slate includes 11 new candidates, while 12 of the 16 Green candidates are standing for the first time. Apart from Maya Evans, the Independent group candidates are all newcomers too, as is one of the three Reform UK candidates. The Conservatives are running a mix of new and returning names, with former group leader Rob Lee and past councillor Liam Atkins back on the slate.

The Liberal Democrat list also includes some more established names, such as Bob Loyd and Stewart Rayment, though they will not be expecting to make any significant advance in this set of local elections.

With just over two weeks to go, and against the backdrop of the most unpredictable campaign for years, there’s a sense that the campaign is still wide open and voters can expect much door knocking and many more social media posts of smiling candidates posing in front of road names before polling day.


This article was amended by Chris Connelley on 16 April 2024 to correct Adele Bates’ history.

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link. Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 19:40 Sunday, Apr 14, 2024 In: Elections


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Bob

    Where can I find the candidates’ statements so that I can choose who to vote for? I am in Central St Leonards

    Comment by Bob — Friday, Apr 26, 2024 @ 14:43

  2. Ian

    The ONLY time you see anyone from these parties is when it’s election time. Other than that, I see nothing good about the current council, a strong determination to run the town into the ground and do everything possible to reduce the tourist industry. Pots holes, withdrawal of support for many events, including the world-wide famous Chess Festival, the restored Jack of the Green festival, the fish festival, to name a few – they never count the businesses that survive because of the draw of people these events bring, those businesses that pay their council tax, instead they look purely at the cost of running an event and never at the indirect income it generates from business rates. They all need kicking out and starting again with people who want to put Hastings on the map and not just ‘survive’.

    Comment by Ian — Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024 @ 12:49

  3. DAR

    Hastings Independents are listed in the “Hastings Observer” paper as just “Independents”. I hope this does not confuse some voters as the Hastings Independent group are actually ex-Labour HBC councillors or sympathisers who tend to the “hard left” of the Labour party.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Apr 15, 2024 @ 10:48

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Elections

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us


    Get our regular digest emails

  • Subscribe to HOT