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Red/Green Cabinet: from left, Andy Batsford, Judy Rogers (both Labour), Julia Hilton (Green), Simon Willis, Maya Evans (both Labour), Glenn Haffenden (Green), and chair Paul Barnett (Labour). Ali Roark (Labour) was not present. (Photo: HBC.)

Red Green alliance gets go-ahead, but not all are happy

After a delay of one week, Hastings Borough Council’s Full Council finally met last week to decide how the new body, in no party’s overall control, would be organised. Chris Connelley takes the political temperature after frantic negotiations secured a shared approach.

Hastings Borough Council’s future political direction became clearer last week after three weeks of uncertainty following its dramatic move to No Overall Control on 5 May, when local elections saw Labour lose three seats to an ascendent Green Party. The Greens triumphed in Central St Leonards, Tressell and Gensing Wards, the latter where veteran Labour councillor and, until April, Council leader Kim Forward was defeated by newcomer Amanda Jobson.

With this year’s votes counted, Labour now have 15 councillors, with the Conservatives – who held all their current wards but failed to advance in swing seats like Silverhill and Ore – on 12 and the Greens on five. This produced a situation where no single party enjoys an overall majority, bringing to an end an extended period of undisputed Labour dominance.

The period between the result and a delayed Annual Council on 25 May saw protracted discussion between the three parties, with both the Conservatives and Labour believed to have reached out to the Greens in an effort to secure their support, and therefore the votes required to become the lead party.

This has placed intense pressure on the Greens, who, despite their meteoric rise, are still very much the new kids on the block in the Council chamber, having secured their first borough council seat in Old Hastings Ward just a year ago.

Having taken all their seats from Labour, with sizeable swings, after an at times acrimonious campaign, they will have been mindful of an appetite for a change of direction, and of the challenges of working alongside members of a team that had co-ordinated hard hitting ‘spoiler’ material against them. They will also have been aware of the adverse effect of forming any alliance with the Conservatives, in a year when their vote share declined, and at a time when continuing controversy over Partygate and the cost of living crisis dominate the news headlines.

Co-operative alliance

In the end, having pondered a number of options, including all-party representation on the Cabinet, the Green councillor group decided to throw its weight behind Labour through the creation of a ‘co-operative alliance’.

This arrangement, which will be reviewed after a year, with a possible break clause after six months, is underpinned by a signed agreement, or memorandum of understanding, committing both parties to work on the principle of ‘no surprises’ with their fellow group and to reach consensus through discussions for the benefit of the town, and by an agreed set of policy priorities.

This is headlined by a push to generate a town-wide, fully costed climate action plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. It also anticipates broader policy and organisational reviews designed to open up the Council and support more imaginative partnership working with outside bodies and local business.

In practical terms, it secures the Greens two seats on Cabinet, the top table body which decides the strategic direction of the Council and where major decisions are made. Green group leader Julia Hilton assumes the mantle for the climate change, environment and active travel portfolio, with Tressell councillor and businessman Glenn Haffenden assuming responsibility for the urban environment, which covers a range of service areas including waste, recycling and licensing.

New-look Labour team

They join a new-look Labour Cabinet team headed up by Hollington Ward councillor Paul Barnett, who becomes council leader. He is supported as deputy leader by his ward colleague, Maya Evans, a former Green Party activist who joined Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and who assumes responsibility for housing and community development.

Castle Ward councillor Judy Rodgers, who just held on to her seat by a wafer-thin five votes, takes on planning, governance and community safety whilst campaign co-ordinator Andy Batsford, one of Labour’s most high-profile councillors, moves from housing to a new combined health and culture brief.

The remaining Cabinet places are taken by newcomer Simon Willis, the highly rated new councillor for Ore, now responsible for Equalities, and Ali Roark, another Tressell councillor who replaces grandee Trevor Webb as chair of the Charity Committee.

Commenting on the new alliance, Cllr  Barnett said, “There are tough decisions to be made so that we can live within our budget, which is one of the top priorities for this new Labour and Green agreement. We must prioritise those most in need in our town, and build new partnerships with our residents, voluntary sector and businesses. We have agreed seven priorities which will form our work plan for the coming year, these will include tackling the housing crisis, balancing the budget and improving outcomes for the most vulnerable in our town.”

Green leader Julia Hilton added, “Everyone has expressed a wish for more collaborative working, this agreement is intended to open up the council to more scrutiny and debate. This will be a cooperative alliance; we will be working together in the best interests of the town and its people. We will ensure that all decisions made by the council will be seen through a climate change lens, alongside working to tackle the cost of living crisis”.

Dissenting voice

The new co-operative alliance does not, however, enjoy the support of all five Green group members, Castle Ward councillor Claire Carr having declined to be part of the arrangement. In a statement issued on social media the day after Annual Council, she outlined her reasons, saying, “I did not feel I could sign up to this deal and maintain my integrity as I believe the people of this town voted for change which this agreement does not offer enough of. This is a missed opportunity for real cross-party working between the three parties which could have given Hastings a fresh, diverse voice as well as allowing all councillors to bring their different skillsets together to meaningfully bring the changes this town so desperately needs”.

She also claimed that, “The document I was required to sign seemed to remove some of my rights as a councillor, including the right to freely ask questions and bring amendments when in the best interest of the residents of Castle Ward or the town as a whole. I do not wish to enter into any agreement that limits the way in which I perform my duties”.

“I will continue to use my position as a councillor, outside of any whip, to try and hold the administration to account and best serve the residents of this town. I will judge the administration’s effectiveness on their deeds, not just their words.”

“I remain a member of The Green Party and thus the Green Group, just outside of this alliance. I wish Cllr. Julia Hilton and the other members the best of luck in their new alliance with Labour”.


Councillor Hilton responded in a written statement, arguing “Claire Carr has been a valuable member of the Green Group and I am sorry that this disagreement about the way forward has divided us.

“As a group of Green councillors, we were elected to make change, and we had long discussions about the best way to use the power that was given to us when the council was in No Overall Control after the election.

“The rest of us agreed that the best – even if potentially more difficult – path was to take the power offered us as cabinet members to work from within in order to help decide the direction of travel. Over the past few years, with proper cross-party debate at cabinet level, proposals that we disagreed with could have been challenged before they became decisions. With Greens in the room, we can provide that debate”.

Councillor Carr’s announcement demonstrates the soul-searching within the Greens about the wisdom and effect of an alliance with Labour and ensures that any political honeymoon is short-lived as the new Cabinet prepares to make difficult financial decisions.

New line-up for committees

As well as the Cabinet, HBC’s committees also have new memberships.

Paul Barnett (chair), Andy Batsford, Maya Evans (vice-chair), Ali Roark, Judy Rogers, Simon Willis, all Labour; Glenn Haffenden, Julia Hilton, both Green.

Margi O’Callaghan (chair), James Bacon, John Cannan, Ali Roark, Alan Roberts, all Labour; Karl Beaney, Matthew Beaver, Mike Edwards, Graeme Williams, all Conservative; Tony Collins (vice-chair).

Overview and Scrutiny
Andy Patmore (chair), Sabina Arthur, John Cannan, Alan Roberts, Mike Turner, Trevor Webb, all Labour, Mike Edwards, Alan Hay, Peter Pragnell, all Conservative), Tony Collins, Amanda Jobson (vice-chair), both Green.

Environment and Safety
Amanda Jobson (chair), Green; Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood (vice-chair), Alan Hay, both Conservative; Alan Roberts, Nigel Sinden, both Labour.

John Rankin (chair), Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood, both Conservative; Tony Collins (vice-chair), Green; Paul Barnett, Trevor Webb, both Labour.

Glenn Haffenden (chair), Green; Alan Roberts, Trevor Webb (vice-chair), both Labour; Mike Edwards, Peter Pragnell, both Conservative.

Mike Edwards, Paul Foster, John Rankin, all Tory; Paul Barnett, Maya Evans, both Labour; Julia Hilton, Green.

Licensing sub-committee
Karl Beaney, Mike Edwards, Paul Foster, Andy Patmore, Peter Pragnell, John Rankin, all Conservative; Sabina Arthur, Heather Bishop, Alan Roberts, Nigel Sinden, Mike Turner, all Labour; Tony Collins, Amanda Jobson, both Green.

Ali Roark (chair), Labour.

Andy Batsford (chair), Maya Evans, Nigel Sinden, Trevor Webb, all Labour; Andy Patmore, Peter Pragnell (vice-chair), John Rankin, all Conservative; Amanda Jobson, Green.

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Posted 21:22 Sunday, May 29, 2022 In: Local Government


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  1. Tim Barton

    Having 1 green outside the alliance is a gateway for all the greens to get questions asked that they may personally be meant not to. Sounds like a positive, from that point of view!
    PS, your headline is slightly wrong, as it implies everyone is unhappy. I think it meant ‘but not all are happy’ 😉

    Comment by Tim Barton — Monday, May 30, 2022 @ 13:28

  2. DAR

    Get rid of the cabinet system – too much power in too few hands. Stop development on greenfield sites. I hope Julia Hilton (Green) will do this by applying pressure to the new housing boss (Maya Evans, Labour) and scrutinise the quality of current plans and demand modifications (e.g. Harrow Lane Playing Field and Ashdown House sites). Like Claire Carr (Green), I’m not sure a formal arrangement with a discredited Labour bloc is a good move. We’ll see.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, May 30, 2022 @ 13:07

  3. Mr Blair

    HOT appear to have overlooked one important detail re cabinet appointments –
    Cllr Simon Willis holds the Finance portfolio as well as Equalities.

    Otherwise a v insightful report. Interesting that Cllr Roark has the Charity portfolio but the rest of its committee appointments remain unannounced – Might there be a new line up for the Foreshore Trust with a Green & a Con ?

    Comment by Mr Blair — Monday, May 30, 2022 @ 12:45

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