Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

The current crop of 12 Green councillors, with council leader Julia Hilton fifth from right. The Cabinet comprises seven of them, which has attracted criticism (photo: Hastings Green Party).

Hilton explains all Green Cabinet

While Green Party council leader Julia Hilton reiterated her party’s position of wanting to work with other parties at last week’s annual Full Council meeting, she also found herself criticised for forming an all Green Cabinet. Though she confirmed her support for replacing the cabinet with a committee system, she did not see this being possible in the short term. Nick Terdre reports.

After all the talk from the Greens of wanting more inclusive decision-making in Hastings Borough Council, it caused general surprise when an all Green Cabinet was announced at last week’s annual Full Council.

“The initial wish of the Green group was to work together in a progressive alliance with both Labour and Hastings Independents,” Cllr Hilton explained to HOT. “However, given the deep distrust between these two groups that wasn’t going to be possible.

“We therefore decided that the best approach was not to be aligned with either group but be free to work cross-party on a vote-by-vote basis. I have already publicly committed us to working cross-party on both the new corporate plan and the budget. Neither of these things has ever happened before.

“Once that plan is agreed, the Cabinet will be welcoming ideas for where cross-party working groups (Committees of Cabinet as described in our constitution) could be useful to work on policy and action in certain areas including climate change plans and the Local Plan.”

The Labour group had already said they would not go into an alliance with the Greens – a decision, they stressed, which they had taken themselves, rather than having it thrust upon them by national Labour.


But the Hastings Independents were clearly unhappy, claiming that their approaches to the Greens had been rebuffed. “During two weeks of discussion since the elections, where [the Greens] did very well and all three other parties lost seats, we recommended that to achieve a clear majority, a coalition between Greens and another party would be best for Hastings,” they said in a statement.

“Any other approach risks stalemate, and as a result even more power residing with council officers, with an inevitable slow pace and fudged decisions as a result.

“With this in mind Hastings Independents offered Julia Hilton our support, suggesting two experienced Independent councillors to join the cabinet, to ensure that the town gets action, not just words.

“Sadly she refused, preferring to form a Green Cabinet and clearly an informal deal with the Labour Party, who have been given all the key positions outside Cabinet.”

It was noted in HOT’s report on the annual Full Council meeting that in the voting for committee chairs and vice-chairs, the Greens almost always voted for the Labour candidates and vice versa.

Committee system

The question of a return to the committee system in place of the Cabinet was brought up by Cllr Andy Patmore following Hilton’s presentation of the council’s programme for the municipal year. In reply Hilton said she remained absolutely committed to that, but given the huge workload to be tackled was not inclined to work on this straight away. However she did want to look at how the Cabinet committees could be used as cross-party working groups.

She also pledged that preparation of the four-year corporate plan, which had been held back until after the elections, would be a fully cross-party process.

There are many challenges facing the council, as Hilton highlighted In presenting the programme. In her introductory remarks she pointed out that there were now 14 female councillors (there are actually 13), which was not yet parity but was closer than ever.

She also drew attention to the all-white nature of the council, a point which was reiterated by Cllr Paul Barnett, leader of the Hastings Independents group, in his own remarks. In its previous iteration Hastings Borough Council had three non-white members: Maya Evans, Sabina Arthur and Lucian Fernando. While Arthur stood down, neither of the other two succeeded in getting re-elected.

Not surprisingly Southern Water featured prominently in Hilton’s presentation – its offer of compensation for the failure of the water supply over the early May bank holiday weekend was derisory and an insult to the people of Hastings, she said. Southern Water are apparently not required to offer the standard £30 to residents for every 12 hours of water loss, but instead are offering a “community fund” of £500,000 plus £120,000 to compensate festivals, including Jack in the Green, and schools.

However, she welcomed the water company’s agreement to send its senior team to answer councillors’ questions at a special Full Council meeting (date yet to be fixed).

Major priority

A major priority was putting the council’s own house in order. “We need to demonstrate that we have learned from past mistakes and put new systems in place that ensure rigorous and transparent decision making,” Hilton said.

Among projects already in process she singled out improving the quality of the housing stock to make for improved health and reduced carbon emissions – lack of proper insulation was one of the biggest contributors to the town’s carbon footprint, she said.

A variety of funding streams would help tackle the temporary accommodation crisis, saving £5.6m in temporary accommodation costs.

A major international festival is planned for the 1,000th anniversary of the birth of William the Conqueror in 2027, for which the upgrade of Hastings Castle and the West Hill cafe needed to be completed on time.

The major town centre public realm and ‘green connections’ project, as well as future work with Homes England, could leverage new investment in the town. Hilton said she was keen to ensure that all such projects should be community led, and that the kind of investment that was attracted would allow public assets to stay in public hands.

Relevant to the town centre plans is flood prevention work, on which modelling, due to be completed by July, is being led by Southern Water. This will be integrated into an updated storm water management plan for the town.

Hilton also stressed that it was essential to get the new Local Plan right, and promised that the views of all councillors would be sought before it went out to public consultation.

The programme was approved with no votes against but many abstentions.


Cllr Hilton’s speech, which referenced various other issues not mentioned here, can be downloaded from the Hastings Green Party’s website and viewed on the video recording of the meeting on the HBC website (starts at 1.02 hours).


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Posted 08:01 Thursday, May 30, 2024 In: Local Government

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