Questions from Councillors under Rule 12
a) Members of the public under Rule 11
b) Councillors under Rule 12
A written question had been received from Councillor Beaver regarding the proposed sports village development. Councillor Chowney replied to the questions. Copies of the question and response were circulated at the meeting.
Councillor Beaver asked a supplementary question about the contingency plans that would be put in place should the sports village operator fail. Councillor Chowney replied that rigorous due diligence measures were in place to assess the suitability of any potential operators for the sports village, to minimise the risk of a business failure. He noted that whilst there was always an element of risk involved with development projects, high quality facilities attract interest from alternative operators.
A written question has been received from Councillor Patmore regarding increases the hire charge for council owned beach huts and chalets. Councillor Chowney replied to the question. Copies of the question and response were circulated at the meeting.
Questions to the Leader, Deputy Leader and other Lead Members were asked and answered in accordance with rule 12.1 as follows:
Questioner and Councillor
Reply Given By Councillor
Economic conditions in Hastings Given the low levels of unemployment, rising wages and low interest rates nationally, how is the council ensuring this economic success is transferred to Hastings?
Councillor Chowney replied that a recent report by the Rowntree Foundation noted that levels of unemployment in many areas was higher than national figures suggest. This issue is particularly acute in coastal towns, including Hastings, many of which continue to struggle with high levels of deprivation. He added that there had been increased inward migration to the town over recent years. The Community Led Local Development programme would help to engage marginalised communities, by providing access to education, training and employment opportunities.
Relocation of walk in medical centre will the Leader of the Council agree to write to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) objecting to the planned relocation of the walk in medical centre from Station Plaza to the Conquest Hospital?
Councillor Chowney acknowledged that these concerns were shared by many councillors and agreed to write to the CCG in response to the consultation.
External Funding is there an update on any upcoming external funding opportunities and recent successes?
Councillor Chowney replied that the council had recently secured funding via the European Union (EU) DESTI-SMART programme to develop transport links with the seafront. The council was also preparing a funding bid to support capital works to improve transport links.
Commercial Property Investment Carpet Right, which occupies one of the council’s commercial property units, recently issued a profits warning and intends to close a number of its stores. Does the Leader of the Council agree that commercial property investment is too high risk for the council?
Councillor Chowney said that Carpet Right has identified the Hastings store as one of its best performing outlets and did not intend to close the shop or seek rent reductions. He added that he did not believe commercial property investment was too high risk for the council and noted that a number of other local authorities were pursuing a similar approach.
Local Fisheries will the Leader of the Council give an overview of the concerns raised at a recent protest by the local fishing community?
Councillor Chowney relied that the recent protests had been regarding a new landing obligation, which was due to come into force soon. He added that more work should be done by the government to ensure fishing quotas were allocated fairly and prevent the buying and selling of fishing quotas, which disadvantaged smaller fisheries. Councillor Chowney thanked Councillor Westley for her work as a member of the Committee of Regions.
Rough Sleeping will the lead member confirm if additional funding has been received from the government to tackle rough sleeping and, if so, what it can be used for?
Councillor Batsford replied that additional funding to tackle rough sleeping had not yet been received. He added that demand for homelessness prevention services was likely to increase following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act. A night shelter for rough sleepers had also been set up during the recent bad weather.
Hastings Pier what support can the council give the Friends of Hastings Pier?
Councillor Chowney replied that the sale of the pier was being overseen by an administrator, and it would not be appropriate for the council to intervene in or influence this process. However, the council would need to work closely with the new operator of the pier, to ensure a sustainable future for the attraction. This included reviewing planning policy in respect of the structure and looking at ways of maintaining community involvement.
Major Planning Applications the overview and scrutiny performance monitoring report for quarters 2 and 3 shows that the target for processing major planning applications will not be met. What can be done to address this?
Councillor Forward replied that performance monitoring was a matter for overview and scrutiny to consider. She agreed to re-circulate a link to the report, which included further information about this target.
Public Arts Festival will the lead member provide an update on the new public arts festival which is being developed?
Councillor Beaney replied that an annual sculpture festival was being organised, which would take place on the foreshore and promenade. Interest had already been received from a number of artists who would be willing display their work. The festival would also compliment plans to develop a new water feature on the promenade at White Rock.
Child Poverty the latest report by the Director of Public Health highlights issues around child poverty. Can the Leader of the Council provide more information?
Councillor Chowney replied that in Hastings 29% of children were living in poverty, compared to 20% nationally. Hastings also had an above average number of mental health issues reported in children. Councillor Chowney noted that the effects of living in poverty often impacted young people later in life, particularly their ability to access education and employment.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is there an update on the new ERP system?
Councillor Poole noted that the new ERP system would replace the council’s existing finance, HR and payroll systems. The council was co-ordinating the project in partnership with Rother District Council. The finance element of the new system went live in April, and the HR element was due to be launched in the summer. Councillor Poole thanked the Transformation Manager and his team for their work on this complex project.