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Paul Barnett elected new Labour leader in Hastings

Just over a month before local elections, local Labour has elected Cllr Paul Barnett as its new group leader. While waiting to be endorsed as council leader, he will be in the forefront when Labour launches its election campaign in the town centre on Saturday. Nick Terdre reports.

Hastings and Rye Labour Party has elected Cllr Paul Barnett as its new group leader in place of Cllr Kim Forward, who has stepped down after two years in the role. In a contest with Andy Batsford, he won convincingly, HOT understands.

“ This is a real honour, to be asked to lead for Labour at such a crucial time locally, nationally and internationally,” Barnett said.” I will do my best to live up to the excellent work done by Jeremy Birch, Peter Chowney and Kim Forward who have all inspired me as leaders over the last ten years.

“Hastings is a great town, and I will do my best to help make it a place where everyone feels happy and secure.”

Currently the deputy Hastings Borough Council leader, Cllr Barnett is expected to be endorsed as the new leader at the full council meeting on Wednesday 13 April.

Cllr Forward has kept a low profile since she became council leader two years ago, with little public presence apart from her weekly video message to the town. “ It has been a very special responsibility to be leader of the Council throughout the pandemic,” she said.

“I have worked with others to try to ensure that our residents have been supported through this most difficult of times and that the NHS could support our town as effectively as possible. Thank you to  everyone who has helped and been there for others, including  all our Hastings Borough Council officers. I know that Paul has the passion and commitment to continue to guide our town towards a brighter future.”

Lockdown happened the day after Cllr Forward became council leader, Barnett told HOT. “So she has steered the town through the whole pandemic, in a remarkably strong and sensible way. This has brought her praise from the Director of Public Health, amongst others, and must have been exhausting,” he said.

A less sympathetic view of the matter was taken by the local Liberal Democrat chair Bob Lloyd. “Needless to say this a strange time with the local elections only weeks away for the Labour Party to be changing leaders!” he told HOT. “The leadership election was between Paul Barnett and Andy Batsford so at least the Labour councillors who voted had some sense!

“However Kim Forward has proved to be a very poor leader with a low profile who has achieved little in the past two years. So let’s see if Paul Barnett can do any better, which would not be difficult! I understand that the Green Party are targeting Gensing so maybe Labour didn’t want to lose their leader in May!”

The leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Andy Patmore, declined to comment on Barnett’s elevation on the grounds that it was an internal Labour matter.

Elections

It falls therefore to the new head to lead Labour into the local elections on 5 May, at a time when both Tories and Greens will be looking to build upon gains made a year ago. The 16 seats to be decided, one in each ward, include Barnett’s own seat in Hollington, where he will be standing for re-election.

Labour will launch its election campaign on Saturday 2 April at 12 noon in the town centre, when “Barnett along with key speakers will be laying out our key manifesto pledges under the theme of demanding a fair share for Hastings,” Labour told HOT.

The new group leader has been in the news on several occasions recently. In mid March he resigned as a member of the Sea Change Sussex board, for reasons which he told HOT he would explain at the full council meeting.

He also fronted the recent announcement that the council had decided not to sell Tilekiln Fields to Hastings United football club as green spaces needed to be protected – an apparent U-turn in council policy. As the site is in Hollington, Cllr Patmore saw the move as blatantly electoral.

Lloyd was somewhat more understanding. “Paul Barnett is a new (2018) councillor with little experience of local government and he is the one who helped prevent  Hastings United moving to Tilekiln on very questionable grounds.

“I understand he may be someone who can work collaboratively with others, let’s hope so as we have had enough of a council that does not listen!”

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 31 March 2022.

 

 

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Posted 21:39 Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022 In: Politics

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Nick Terdre

    Comment received on 3 April from Cllr Julia Hilton of the Green Party:

    “It seems a surprising time to change leaders with just a few weeks to go before local elections. I welcome Paul’s statement that he is willing ‘to work with anybody who wants to work with me.’ We need a much more collaborative style of leadership for Hastings with a council that wants to actively work with the local community. This has not been apparent in recent years with decisions like the new hotel planned for Cornwallis Place made with zero public consultation. Paul doesn’t have long to change the culture with elections only a few weeks away. Let’s see what the landscape looks like after May 5.”

    Comment by Nick Terdre — Monday, Apr 4, 2022 @ 11:03

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