Over the years, the powers available to councils to achieve real change have been taken away and centralised, reducing the council’s ability to make comprehensive improvements to local facilities and services.
Councils need real powers returned to them so they can make more of a difference locally. Powers we would like to see passed to Hastings Council include allowing the council to:
- Set up and run local bus services;
- Seize abandoned property and development land with reduced compensation to allow redevelopment and reuse;
- Ensure all developments include social rented housing, regardless of spurious ‘affordability’ arguments;
- Increase Council Tax on second homes and other underused properties;
- Decide the level of local business rates;
- Control the types of shops and businesses operating in an area;
- Regulate and licence homes used as holiday lets.
We would also like to see the creation of a Hastings (or Hastings and Bexhill) unitary council, so we could take on county council powers to maintain highways, fix potholes, provide education and social care services, and all the other county level services (see earlier list). We believe this would be less confusing for local people and allow efficiency savings by running better integrated services, as well as maintaining a council that was close to local people and responsive to their needs.
What does the Borough Council do?
In Hastings, there are two councils providing different local services. They are independent of each other, and make their decisions separately, with different councillors elected at different elections.
Hastings Borough Council is a district council, and is based in Muriel Matters House, on the seafront. East Sussex County Council is based in Lewes. Generally, county councils provide fewer, more expensive services, while district councils provide more, less expensive services.
Hastings Borough Council is responsible for:
Domestic waste collection and street cleaning
Licensing (pubs, off-licences, events, taxis etc)
Planning policy and planning applications
Economic development and regeneration
Homelessness, private sector housing regulation and housing advice
Social housing allocations policy and local housing strategy
Arts and culture
Parks and gardens
Sport and recreation
Marketing, publicity, and tourism
Environmental health (including air quality and noise) and food safety
Cemetery and crematorium
Council tax and business rate collection
Health and safety at work in shops and some other businesses
East Sussex County Council is responsible for:
Highway maintenance, fixing potholes and on-street parking
Skills training (via colleges)
Children’s and youth services
Adult social care
Minerals planning (including fracking)
Education services and maintained schools
Councils are NOT responsible for:
Academy schools (all non-religious schools in Hastings are academies apart from Sandown Primary)
Social housing run by housing associations (all social housing in Hastings is run by housing associations)
Trade waste collections
Benefits (apart from housing benefit), tax credits, universal credit
Police and fire services
Further Education colleges
Drains, sewers and most waterways
Health and safety in factories, offices and building sites