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Closed: Much of the town, including the White Rock Hotel and White Rock Theatre. The Lib Dems want an inclusive working party to plan the town’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Lib Dems petition for working party to guide Covid recovery

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the council to set up an inclusive working party to guide the borough’s economic and social recovery from the coronavirus, and have launched a petition to advance its cause. Nick Terdre reports.

Different interests and different sources of expertise should be brought together in a working party to tackle the immense task of helping the borough to recover from the debilitating effects of Covid-19, local Liberal Democrats believe. They have launched an e-petition on the HBC website urging the council to accept their suggestion.

“Hastings Borough Council will have an important role to play and we believe that this role should benefit from input from all areas of local society and the economy,” lead petitioner and local Lib Dem deputy chair Jonathon Stoodley told HOT.

“It would usefully also draw on information on policies and actions in other parts of the country to ensure that fully coordinated and the most effective outcomes are achieved. There should be no automatic step back into former ways of working particularly as it does not yet seem clear that society will be able to afford some of the earlier activities that we took for granted.

“It seems to us that the best way to ensure the best outcome is to establish a Covid-19 Recovery Working Party to coordinate efforts in the Council, allow all sectors of the society and economy to follow the challenges along the way and contribute and produce the best possible outcomes in all affected areas…”

Bringing all interests together

This was not a party political issue, Stoodley stressed. “The petition has been sent to the Council on behalf of the local Liberal Democrats, but we would prefer this not to become an issue which divides on political lines, but rather one which can bring all interests together to bring the best results.”

The petition states that the working party “could start, amongst other actions, by surveying the impact of the crisis on, and outlook for, the various existing Council policies, business and social sectors. Environmentally friendly increased public transport to replace private vehicle use, building more affordable social housing, supporting the tourist and fishing sectors might figure among key issues.”

Deputy council leader Colin Fitzgerald told HOT, “We’re aware of the petition and officers have already been in touch with the petitioners.”

The petition is open until 9 July and can be signed by anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough. Assuming a minimum of 10 signatories is achieved, and the council does not consider that the issue has already been addressed, officers will prepare a report for the relevant committee and the lead petitioner – in this case Jonathon Stoodley, the local Lib Dems’ vice chair – should be allowed five minutes to present the petition at the next committee meeting.

Coordinated approach

“A coordinated approach within the Council will be likely to produce the best results alongside the active collection of information and ideas on how others are working to regenerate the economy in ways that respect other major policies, such as climate change, and ensure maximum social cohesion,” the petition argues.

It also emphasises the scale of the challenge facing the town. “The COVID-19 epidemic presents the greatest challenge to the local economy and social fabric for over a century. The Bank of England has predicted the largest annual contraction in UK GDP for more than three centuries.

“The epidemic has affected most parts of the population of the United Kingdom as well as many other countries. The challenge of recovery from the epidemic is unprecedented and requires a strong focus on the most efficient, coordinated and socially beneficial actions to ensure the best results for Hastings and Rye. Achieving the best results for the Borough will require action in most areas of Council policy.

“The challenges include: a predicted 14 per cent fall in GDP affecting everyone in different ways and likely to have a harder impact on those already suffering from deprivation; the particular vulnerability of the leisure sector and businesses dependent on tourism; the need to increase the value attributed to the medical and social care sectors; and the importance of continuing to tackle climate change with any regeneration.”

It also thanks all key workers for their efforts during these difficult times: “Our gratitude should be expressed to all medical and social care staff, Council staff and other key workers as well as Parish councils and community groups and NGOs, sometimes voluntarily providing support going far beyond any reasonable demand that could be made of them.”

The petition can be seen and signed here.


Posted 09:43 Wednesday, Jun 3, 2020 In: Covid-19

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