Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Cllr Julia Hilton addresses the full council after being elected HBC’s new leader.

Hilton elected HBC leader after Cabinet step down

HOT’s Chris Connelley updates us on the latest happenings at the Town Hall, where Green councillor Julia Hilton was tonight elected council leader at an extraordinary meeting of HBC’s Full Council.

2023 ended with a bang as eight Labour councillors jumped ship the day after Budget Council to form a new political party, the Hastings Independents, transforming the town’s electoral arithmetic and catapulting Hastings Borough Council into a situation of no party being in overall control.

The defectors included some of the most senior politicians, including leader Paul Barnett, deputy leader Maya Evans, and Cabinet members Ali Roark, John Cannnan, Simon Willis and Andy Batsford. They were joined by two veteran councillors, ex-mayor Nigel Sinden and Labour whip Mike Turner.

Taking into account the  more recent departure of Cllr Sabina Arthur to become an independent (but not part of Hastings Independents), the council is now configured as follows:

Hastings Independents 8
Conservatives 10
Labour  6
Greens 5
Reform UK 1
Independents 2

The new year has started equally dramatically, with the tabling of a  motion of no confidence in the leadership and Cabinet from the group of six remaining Labour councillors.

This motion triggered a rare Extraordinary Full Council earlier this evening, at the start of which the borough’s chief legal officer announced that all six Cabinet members had resigned, effectively nullifying  Labour’s motion.

The meeting moved on to consider nominations for leader, at which point Green councillor Tony Collins proposed his party leader Julia Hilton. The nomination was seconded by Nigel Sinden from the Hastings Independents, and supported by all the Hastings Independents present and all the Green councillors, with the exception of outgoing Castle Ward Cllr Claire Carr, who abstained.

Hilton was elected by 11 votes to two, with 14 abstentions and five absentees. All Labour and Conservative councillors abstained, with the exception of Cllr Karl Beaney, who voted against, as did Cllr Lucian Fernando, from the Reform UK Party.

Unity Cabinet not possible

Cllr Hilton issued a press release shortly after the meeting, stating: “This solution has been reached after lengthy discussions with all political groups. I had hoped to be able to form a unity cabinet with representation from all four groups, including Labour and Conservative, but that has not proved possible. This interim administration is one that all groups have said they can live with for the next few months until the May elections, to give much-needed stability to the council.

“The final cabinet is still to be agreed but it will be made up of members of the Green Party and the recently formed Hastings Independent Group.

“My focus for the months to the elections in May will be on securing the financial future of the council and working on the ambitious plans to tackle the housing crisis.

“Part of the problem we have had, in tackling these issues, relates to our current clunky cabinet system of decision-making. Hastings Green Party has long called for a move to a more democratic and transparent committee system. The aim is for all councillors to have a voice in decision-making.

“With four political groups as well as individual independents now sitting on the council, it’s essential that we develop a more inclusive and consensual decision-making process. I hope that this short period before the May local elections can allow us to start making that change, and I look forward to working with all councillors to develop that new political culture.

“Residents want to see their councillors working together in the running of our council for the good of the town. Our priority as a councillor body must be to ensure the council can survive and thrive, emerging from the latest set of financial challenges even leaner, but nimble and agile to work with partners and create a thriving and flourishing future for the town and its residents.”

Votes cast when Cllr Julia Hilton was elected as HBC’s new leader (graphic: Russell Hall).

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Posted 21:44 Wednesday, Jan 17, 2024 In: Local Government


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Richard Heritage

    I quite agree with Michael Madden’s outlook on the Labour party and the council overall. In the many years that party has had control they have shown their ineptness countless times. As for the failure to care for SSSI’s and AONB’s absolutely correct. After my seven year involvement with others to save Robsack meadow from HBC concreting it. The Labour party who did nothing to support the group then claimed in their manifesto how they saved it.
    ON another note Bryan Fisher raises a good point where were those five absent councillors on such an important meeting as this one. Displays their commitment to being a councillor. Who were they?

    Comment by Richard Heritage — Monday, Jan 22, 2024 @ 08:31

  2. Teresa Green

    @JC Hart

    I think the difference is that the local representatives of the same Tory party that has cut our council’s central funding by 93% (that’s NINETY-THREE PER CENT!) since 2010, which is an act of deliberate economic vandalism, should not get to have any kind of say in how we collectively fight our way out of this financial disaster.

    Comment by Teresa Green — Sunday, Jan 21, 2024 @ 16:49

  3. Bryan Fisher

    I too had hoped this was an opportunity for ‘grown-up’ politics in forming a unity coalition for the last 5 months before the elections. Sadly, we only have the Greens and the ‘Hastings Independents’ involved. I wish Julia Hilton all the very best in her endeavours as the new leader, but under those circumstances of such disunity I would not have gone ahead.
    I would like to know why the Conservatives and Labour decided to ignore what is better for our Bough and instead chose to back away from a brief stab at unity. I would also like to know why, for such an important council meeting, there were 5 councillors absent?

    Comment by Bryan Fisher — Sunday, Jan 21, 2024 @ 16:45

  4. JC Hart

    @Teresa Green
    While deriving pleasure at the thought of someone with your views feeling ‘profoundly’ depressed, I still find it necessary to remind you that those Conservative councillors were elected by voters, in just the same way as the Greens, the Labour, and even the comically confused Hastings Independents.

    Comment by JC Hart — Friday, Jan 19, 2024 @ 16:56

  5. Rebecca Polain

    In response to Nick Hanna’s comment: Heather was just as angry as us when this decision happened. She was always supportive of it. The votes were: Councillors Barnett, Bishop, Cannan, Carr, Collins, Evans, Haffenden, Hilton, Jobson,
    Patmore, Roark, Roberts, Rogers, Sinden, and Webb voted for.
    Councillors Arthur, Batsford, Beaney, Beaver, Cooke, Edwards, Fernando, Foster,
    Hay, Marlow-Eastwood, O’Callaghan, Pragnell, Rankin, Turner, Williams, and Willis voted against. Just wanted to make this clear for others reading this! 🙂

    Comment by Rebecca Polain — Friday, Jan 19, 2024 @ 16:03

  6. Nick Hanna

    Heather Bishop, is that the same Labour Party that undid 15 years of hard work trying to create more healthy, sustainable transport options in Hastings by voting against the Alexandra Park Access for All route, which had been safety audited by the lead partner ESCC?

    Comment by Nick Hanna — Friday, Jan 19, 2024 @ 10:42

  7. Michael Madden

    I no longer live in Hastings and one big reason I/we left was the Labour-dominated council. I’ve always been a Labour voter, but now think that what is really needed is a more democratic forum, as Julia Hilton is advocating through a committe rather than a cabinet style system. Labour proved that they: never listened to the people of Hastings and attacked anyone who tried to hold them to account as “vexatious”, could see no alternative besides enabling developers to build low quality projects that always ran over budget, could not take care of the local SSSIs and and AONBs and never actually built any affordable housing anyway, when other councils are even building council homes. They kept no Declaration Reporting Books. And the actual councillors themselves often seemed to be fantasists who seemed to believe that they were on-board with historic Hastings figures like Robert Tressell who lived in the town in the very early 20th century. But if he were alive then he would have said that they were just as bad as the “forty thieves” council of his day. Hastings was still Mugsborough under Labour domination (or should that be spelt Mogsborough because of all the dog-poo?). If I still lived in Hastings I would welcome this a chance to make the town a better place at last. The fact is this: Labour failed, but cannot admit it. Well done Julia and good luck.

    Comment by Michael Madden — Friday, Jan 19, 2024 @ 08:57

  8. Teresa Green

    I would have considerably more time for the Greens in Hastings if they would just please stop trying to include the Tories into the decision-making process. It was bad enough that they kept voting with them, but for them to be seeking a “unity cabinet” with the Tories is profoundly depressing.

    Comment by Teresa Green — Thursday, Jan 18, 2024 @ 17:00

  9. Rick Dillon

    Cllr Heather Bishop, Leader of the Labour Group, accused the Greens and HIG of striking a ‘dodgy deal’.

    In a press statement she said:

    “After weeks of chaos and uncertainty, we now know that the Hastings Independents have done a dodgy deal with the Green Party to cling on to power.

    “This coalition of chaos is not the fresh start that Hastings needs. Just four weeks ago, Cllr Hilton called the Hastings Independents “highly irresponsible”, but she has now done a deal to keep them in power. Even worse, despite their record of failure bringing the council to the brink of bankruptcy, Cllr Hilton has put the Independents back in charge of the council finances.

    “In May, residents in Hastings have the chance to clear out this unelected and unwanted coalition of failure, and vote for a changed Labour Party that will bring stability and prosperity back to our town.”

    Comment by Rick Dillon — Thursday, Jan 18, 2024 @ 16:00

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