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Greens aim to break electoral duck in Hastings and East Sussex

Encouraged as their politics pull in increasing numbers of new members and supporters, local Greens are contesting all Hastings wards and most East Sussex divisions in the hope of finally winning seats. Nick Terdre asked where they stand on major issues of local interest. All photos courtesy of the Green Party.

The causes which led to the formation of the Green Party in the UK, especially concern over climate change and the environment, are now mostly mainstream, but the party has not benefited as much as they might have hoped in terms of electoral success. Where Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council are concerned, they have yet to win any seats.

However, local Greens are upbeat about this week’s elections, not least because they are attracting greater numbers to their cause. “We’ve  had a lot of new volunteers in the run-up to the election, people who believe that the borough council urgently needs both more diversity and councillors who will hold Labour to account,” HOT was told by press officer Andrea Needham, herself the candidate for Castle ward.

Andrea Needham

“A lot of people have come out canvassing for the first time, or taken on regular leaflet deliveries. Our online meetings have been well attended and there is a lot of enthusiasm amongst new members.”

Climate change is of course one of the main drivers of the Greens’ popularity, and they can claim credit for helping bring about the council’s climate emergency motion in 2019, which committed it to aim for carbon neutrality by 2030 and led to the climate strategy intended to provide a roadmap for getting there.

“Hastings Green Party was a big part of pushing Hastings to make a climate emergency declaration,” said Needham. “Progress so far has been disappointing.

“We know they are strapped for cash but let’s see some imagination and leadership – bringing together the community, and local big employers and stakeholders such as the NHS Trust, the local colleges, housing associations, etc, so all could be working together towards the urgent goal of zero carbon by 2030.”

Housing views

Unlike the other opposition parties the local Greens have not been very vocal in public about the council’s controversial housing developments, such as the proposals for the old bathing pool site and Bulverhythe Rec, but they do have views.

“In West St Leonards a lot of energy is going into creating a neighbourhood plan, so the vision for building there is coming from the community ideas,” Needham said. “This is where plans should start, not this consultation that happens after all the big decisions have been made.”

The scheme proposed by community land trust Heart of Hastings’ for the old power station site in Ore Valley exemplified the Greens’ approach, she explained.

“We believe that any publicly owned land should be developed using the community land trust model which would keep the land in public hands, avoid housing being sold off and mean rents could be properly affordable. A developer/builder could be brought in as a partner but the land would not be sold.

“This was the model proposed on the old power station site, but sadly lack of vision by HBC meant that site being lost to a private developer.”

Regeneration

When it comes to economic regeneration, the Greens are highly critical of the role played by Sea Change Sussex and the involvement of elected representatives.

“Both councils [HBC and ESCC] are board members (Council Leader Kim Forward is currently on the board) and set up this undemocratic structure in the first place. They haven’t ever used the scrutiny power they do have over the workings of the company, which is utterly opaque and appears to get away with being completely unaccountable.

“SeaChange has had tens of millions of pounds in public money, and time and again its projects have destroyed local green spaces whilst failing to deliver the promised jobs – yet no elected councillor of any party has ever, to our knowledge, spoken out about this.

“We would like to see a commitment to no more public money being directed through Sea Change and a new, much more democratic and transparent regeneration vehicle created locally, with a focus on smaller, community-based projects rather than huge white elephant projects like roads and business parks which benefit big developers rather than local people.”

Julia Hilton

Full slate

In Hastings the Greens have candidates standing in all wards, though interest is concentrated on Julia Hilton’s campaign for the vacant seat in Old Hastings (a recent article has profiled the battle in this ward). While in 2018, the Liberal Democrats supported the Greens by standing aside in this ward, this time the two parties have not been able to agree on a joint approach.

“We did have an informal conversation in early 2020, and were open to an electoral pact, but the Lib Dems asked us to stand aside in half (8) of the borough council seats, which was unacceptable to us,” Needham said.

“They then suggested that we could stand aside in four seats but we didn’t want to take part in denying a Green vote in so many seats when it wasn’t clear that the Lib Dems had any chance of winning those seats.”

The Lib Dems have given a somewhat different account, as can be seen from the comments posted on the article about their election campaign.

Alliance approach to ESCC

On the county council front, where the Greens are also yet to win a seat, they are hoping to replicate the model of creating a anti Tory alliance with other opposition parties which has led to them taking control of Rother and Lewes district councils. Though they are contesting most ESCC seats, in Rother they have candidates in only three of nine divisions.

Polly Gray

“We agreed that in the forthcoming elections we would work together and not stand candidates against each other,” Polly Gray, the Greens’ sole councillor on Rother District Council, told HOT.

“Therefore we chose the three most hopeful seats to stand, with our three best candidates, with the agreement that the Alliance would not stand against us and we would not stand in other seats against them. We think this is the only way to reduce the stranglehold of the Tories at ESCC.”

The Rother Alliance, which brings together independents, Lib Dems, Labour and Greens, has worked very well, she said.

In Rye & Eastern Rother, where the Green candidate is Dominic Manning, the Liberal Democrats have agreed not to stand a candidate in return for the Greens not contesting the RDC seat left vacant by Tory Sally-Ann Hart’s election to Parliament.

Travel and pensions

Active travel, the promotion of walking and cycling, is one of the Greens’ priorities at county level. “We will be campaigning for active travel to be prioritised over road building which is the current obsession of the county council,” said Hilton, who calls for a return of the “the full amount of money that was originally committed to cycling and walking in Hastings that was cut to pay for the overspend on the still unfinished Queensway Gateway road that wrecked a local nature reserve.”

Their ambitions include the “investment needed in active travel to achieve the 2025 target to double levels of cycling, making active travel a priority in all transport and neighbourhood decision-making,” and the “investment needed in active travel to achieve the 2025 target to double levels of cycling, making active travel a priority in all transport and neighbourhood decision-making,” along with the “development and delivery of an active travel network of safe, accessible and direct routes including cycling infrastructure networks designed to national standards in every town and city, and rural routes to link these.”

Gabriel Carlyle

Pension policy is another high-profile issue for the Greens. Gabriel Carlyle, the candidate for Conquest ward, is already a familiar face at County Hall in connection with his campaigning work for Divest East Sussex, which calls for East Sussex pension funds to be divested from fossil fuel companies, of which he is a co-founder.

If an anti Tory alliance were to take control of the county council, changes could be expected in pensions and travel policies, along with many others.

Green Party candidates

Candidate HBC ward ESCC division
Christopher Saunders Ashdown Ashdown & Conquest
Daniel Hope Baird Baird & Ore
Sally Phillips Braybrooke Braybrooke & Castle
Andrea Needham Castle
Marie Jones Central St Leonards
Gabriel Carlyle Conquest
Ken Davis Gensing Central St Leonards & Gensing
Beccy McCray Hollington Hollington & Wishing Tree
Samuel Heffernan Maze Hill Maze Hill & West St Leonards
Julia Hilton Old Hastings Old Hastings & Tressell
Gary Rolfe Ore
Dave Carey-Stuart Silverhill St Helens & Silverhill
Lucy Brennan St Helens
Holly Rose Tressell
Jane Packman West St Leonards
Christine Saunders Wishing Tree
Kahina Bouhassane Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

 

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Posted 17:35 Monday, May 3, 2021 In: Politics

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