Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

All Green Cabinet: from left, Tony Collins, Darren Mackenzie, Adele Bates, deputy leader Glenn Haffenden, leader Julia Hilton, Jo Walker and Mark Etherington.

Greens in full control of Hastings Borough Council

On Wednesday evening, while the nation was absorbing the news that the general election will be held on 4 July, in Hastings we were watching how the Green gains in the recent local elections played out in the organisation of the new council, in which both leadership positions as well as all Cabinet posts have been filled by Greens. Report by Nick Terdre, graphics by Russell Hall.

Cllrs Judy Rogers, mayor, and David Whitehill, deputy mayor.

The first move in the annual meeting of the Full Council of Hastings Borough Council was to elect a new mayor. As Labour councillor Margi O’Callaghan stepped down to take up her new role as leader of the Labour group, long-standing and fellow Labour councillor and previous incumbent Judy Rogers was elected to take over, with new Labour councillor David Whitehill as deputy.

In both cases members of the Hastings Independents group were also proposed – Cllr Andy Batsford for mayor and Cllr Nigel Sinden for deputy – but were overwhelmingly defeated, in a rejection that was repeated several times during the session. It seems that the ex-Labour breakaways not only have no friends among Labour or Conservatives, but also now among the Greens.

The choice of council leader, who remains in the post until the annual meeting of Full Council in 2026, was straightforward, with the only nomination being Green councillor Julia Hilton, who took over the role in January after Cllr Paul Barnett resigned, having led the Hastings Independents’ secession from Labour in December.

That does not mean Hilton received widespread endorsement from other councillors — only fellow Greens voted for her, while the Hastings Independents voted against her en bloc (with the exception of Cllr Simon Willis, the only absentee of the night), and the Labour and Tory groups abstained.


Hilton announced that her deputy would again be Cllr Glenn Haffenden. She also announced the seven members of the Cabinet, all Greens, and their portfolios:

  • Cllr Julia Hilton – Regeneration and Community Wealth Building;
  • Cllr Darren Mackenzie – Finance, Assets, Risk and ICT;
  • Cllr Adele Bates – Arts, Culture, Tourism and Leisure, Equalities and Community Engagement;
  • Cllr Joanne Walker – Environment and Neighbourhood Wellbeing;
  • Cllr Mark Etherington – Planning, Infrastructure and Active Travel;
  • Cllr Glenn Haffenden – Housing and Community Wellbeing;
  • Cllr Tony Collins – Foreshore Trust.

(A full table of councillors and Cabinet members with portfolio can be found below.)

It is a remarkable turnaround from last December, when there were no Greens in the Cabinet (the two appointed by the majority Labour group in May 2022 were removed the following October on orders from party HQ) to an all Green Cabinet only five months later.

It will also be a stern challenge for the party, given its relative inexperience – four of the members:  Mackenzie, Bates, Walker and Etherington – are rookie councillors now thrown in at the deep end of running a borough with plentiful problems. Will they be able, for example, to hold their own when they disagree with positions or proposals made by officers?

Elections were also held for the chairs of the major committees. These were won by Cllr Amanda Jobson of the Greens (licensing), O’Callaghan (overview and scrutiny),  Labour councillor Billie Barnes (planning) and Labour’s Danuta Kean (audit). Barnes and Kean are both rookies.

Voting pattern

Whenever a member of the Hastings Independents was also proposed, they lost, with the Greens voting en bloc against them. The Independents’ Mike Turner was voted in as vice-chair of licensing but their Simon Willis lost the vote for vice-chair of audit to the Tories’ Paul Foster, who enjoyed the support of the Greens.

Some of their members have however been appointed to other committee positions: Barnett as chair of the standards committee and Sinden as chair of environment and safety. Sinden also continues as armed forces champion.

Nevertheless there was a clear pattern in the night’s voting, in which Labour voted for Green nominations and the Greens for Labour’s. It has not escaped the attention of the Independents, who, in a later statement, referred to the Greens’ “informal deal with the Labour Party,” and criticised their decision to “form a minority administration, choosing not to work in partnership,” although the Independents said they had offered to do so.

At the suggestion of the new mayor, a minute’s silence was held in memory of former councillor and mayor Pam Brown, who died in March.

The first meeting of the new Cabinet is scheduled for Monday 10 June.

An account of the programme for the coming municipal year present by council leader Hilton will be published shortly in a separate article.

A video recording of the meeting can be seen here on the HBC website.


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Posted 19:58 Friday, May 24, 2024 In: Local Government


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  1. Bea

    Thanks for this article, which outlines some of the positions taken by the parties. I quite agree that it will be a turbulent time and Hasting Council – long thought to be run by its officers rather than elected councillors – may have to change quite a lot, especially becoming more open to different views.
    The Greens may have to get their heads down and learn fast how a local council operates and what the real issues are, as well as working harmoniously with each other.
    Meanwhile the Labour group have to work hard to maintain a strong and distinctive voice which is not aligned with pressure groups urging them to put bikes on pavements, let dogs on all beaches at all times, pour money into their pet schemes, or whatever the latest thing is. The Labour Party recently cancelled an important post-election meeting to discuss how it went, hear reports from councillors and others etc, in favour of banging the drum for instant campaigning for the general election. Now that is obviously important, but should not replace basic accountability to the party’s members.

    Comment by Bea — Tuesday, May 28, 2024 @ 11:27

  2. William Ackroyd

    Keith Forbes is uncritical of the Independents and ignores the reality with which the Council was faced when they resigned from the Labour Party, without warning and immediately after setting the budget. They could have done this when the coalition with the Greens was ended – the reasons for this are not clear-cut.
    Julia Hilton as the leader of the Greens worked to create a consensus out of the chaos that had been created and tried to work with everyone. Given the short time to the election keeping largely the same cabinet was prudent, but did not mean approval of how the independents have behaved.
    Unfortunately the record of the Labour Party in Hastings when they were the majority and subsequently the largest party, did not show a similar willingness to work with others.

    Comment by William Ackroyd — Tuesday, May 28, 2024 @ 10:20

  3. Keith Forbes

    Dissappointed, but somehow not surprised, that the Greens stabbed the Independents in the back.
    They were happily supportive of independents when it suited them, now they have a sniff of ‘power’ they side with the Labour party, or worse, the Tories, to keep out a progressive voice.
    I voted for the Green candidate in my ward, in the absence of an Independant, precisely because of their prior good association with the Independents.
    Should have known better.
    They may have got my vote in the general election…. now they can go whistle, as my ma used to say.

    Comment by Keith Forbes — Saturday, May 25, 2024 @ 12:38

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