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Cllr Kim Forward is set to become HBC council leader in March.

Cllr Kim Forward is set to become HBC council leader in March.

Kim steps forward to become Labour’s first  female council leader in Hastings

Hastings is about to get its first Labour female council leader following the party’s choice of Cllr Kim Forward to replace Peter Chowney. Nick Terdre reports.

Cllr Kim Forward, currently deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council, is set to be appointed council leader at a meeting of the full council on 18 March, when Cllr Peter Chowney will relinquish the role. Forward’s replacement as deputy is expected to be chosen a few days ahead of that meeting.

The Gensing councillor was the choice of her Labour compatriots at a hustings held on 17 February. She becomes the first woman to lead the party in power locally, though Mary Dunning led the Labour group in 1995-98 when it was still in opposition, local Labour told HOT.

Cllr Margi O’Callaghan described Forward’s promotion as “an amazing achievement for women in local politics” and said it was “a fabulous accomplishment to see such a strong woman elected to succeed Peter Chowney.

“Even though she has some big shoes to fill – both Peter and Jeremy Birch had a huge positive impact on our town – I feel that Kim has the drive and the vision to take Hastings to new heights and beyond.”

Chowney pleased

Chowney also welcomed the choice: “I’m very pleased that Kim has been elected as the new leader of the Labour Group and will become leader of the council. Kim has been incredibly supportive as my deputy and has my full support as the new leader, a job she already understands well and will be very good at.

“I wish her all good luck in her new role, and I’ll be available to advise if ever she needs me.”

Born in Bexhill, Forward has lived and worked in and around Hastings and St Leonards all her life. She entered politics as a local councillor in 2008 after a career as a primary school teacher. She served as mayor between 2010 and 2012, before taking on a series of senior roles on the council. She has also served as a county councillor.

She became deputy leader of Hastings Council in 2015 when Peter Chowney took over as leader on the death of Jeremy Birch, and is currently lead member for regeneration, tourism and culture.

Leading role

As such, she has played a leading role in developing plans for a new leisure and arts complex in the White Rock/Bohemia area. To be funded independently of the council, it is hoped the complex will replace the deteriorating and dated existing facilities, Labour said.

She takes on her new role at a time when the council continues to grapple with the effect of swingeing government cuts in local authority funding, which is forcing Hastings to radically restructure its services and, for the first time, to make compulsory redundancies.

“Her experience and enthusiasm are going to be vital as we look to continue standing against the disgusting impacts of Tory imposed austerity upon our residents,” said fellow Gensing councillor Colin Fitzgerald said.

Forward paid tribute to Chowney’s legacy as leader and his collaborative style of working. “I have been involved every step of the way as we have battled with the budget to ensure that we can continue to deliver quality services for the residents of our beautiful town,” she said.

HOT asked Forward for a comment on her new role but has not received a reply.


This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 28 February 2020.

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Posted 21:50 Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020 In: Politics


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  1. Bolshie

    Agree with both these comments. I have a feeling this elevation to Leader of the council was possibly a Politically Correct decision. And after all this councillor was the deputy therefore of the same “Mind Set” as Mrs Doubtfire points out.
    Therefore not the greatest of surprises.
    I am sure it will be business as usual at Muriel’s House.

    Comment by Bolshie — Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 @ 08:43

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Nothing will change – Kim Forward is of the same mind set as Peter Chowney…so don’t expect anything inspirational to appear … it will be the ‘same old same old’ until such time we clear out the entire Labour council which is currently a closed shop to any opinion by anyone who does not agree with their policies.We are on a hiding to nothing here. Forget about transparency and democracy – it ‘aint going to happen here…
    It is a truly sad situation.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Mar 6, 2020 @ 16:04

  3. Penny

    Can we get rid of the antiquated mayoralty stuff now, please? I remember when the labour group promised it was one of the first things they would do, should they ever gain power.
    Apart from being sentimental, childish and old hat, it could save a few bob.
    Whilst we’re at it, let’s scrap the cabinet system in favour of transparent open debate between elected ward representatives.
    It’s only 44 years since the local labour group first begrudgingly allowed a female onto Hastings Council. The Old Boy network seems to be slowly throwing scraps to the others here and there.
    Just think how far things might progress in another 44 years!
    Good luck with that.

    Comment by Penny — Sunday, Mar 1, 2020 @ 23:54

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