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At the Beautiful South Awards held earlier this month in Southampton to celebrate the cream of the region’s tourism industry, the Hastings Seafood and Wine festival won the coveted Highly Commended award for Tourism Event of the Year.

“The Awards are run by Tourism South East to recognise excellence in the tourism industry with the aim to raise standards in quality, innovation and customer service. We are delighted that the Seafood and Wine Festival has been highly commended for Tourism Event of the Year; it’s gone from strength to strength since it started in 2006” said Cllr Kim Forward, Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for marketing and tourism.seafood-and-wine-festival-award

She added: “The event has grown over the years and offers delicious foodie treats made with locally sourced produce to celebrate the local fishing industry, wine and beer and great entertainment from bands and musicians from the area. Our thanks and congratulations must go to Rosie Leech, festival organiser and her team for their continued efforts that have made this event the success it is today”.

Winners have the opportunity to represent the South East in VisitEngland’s national Tourism Excellence Awards which take place in April 2017.

Hastings Borough Council’s Grotbuster team joined forces with the town centre manager, Rob Woods to identify properties in need of improvement in one of the town’s main shopping areas, Queens Road.

With its stringent approach to tackling properties deemed ‘eyesores’, the council’s secret weapon is Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Using this, the Grotbuster initiative has gone from strength to strength, using tough enforcement policies to improve over 700 run down and derelict buildings and other unattractive sites across Hastings since the scheme started in 2000.grotbuster

“Queens Road is one of our busiest shopping areas and as such it’s really important that buildings are kept in tip top condition. Recent action taken by the Grotbuster team has resulted in improvements being carried out to a number of properties in the St Andrews Square area and now we are focussing our attention here. Much work has already been completed in Queens Road but we are aware that there is still more to do” said Cllr Kim Forward the council’s lead member for housing.

“One of our priorities is to build better neighbourhoods and the Grotbuster scheme is helping us to do this. The cumulative effect around St Andrews Square demonstrates what can be done and we hope to see this spread into Queens Road” added Cllr Forward.

Rob Woods the Town Centre Manager said: “There is simply no excuse for allowing premises to become untidy and dilapidated so it is always a great pleasure to work with the council’s Grotbuster team. By taking action against the small minority of landlords in Queens Road who have allowed their premises to fall into neglect, we can collectively support the vast majority of right-minded traders who have invested their energy and money in the area”

Hastings Borough Council’s grounds maintenance contractor idverde UK (formerly The Landscape Group) has donated surplus plants to St Michael’s Hospice Hastings and Rother.st michael's hospice

Cllr Warren Davies the council’s lead member for environment explained:

“Once again our contractors have done a magnificent job preparing our parks and gardens for next year with springtime planting schemes and rather than letting the surplus bulbs and bedding go to waste they offered to donate them to a worthy cause.

“St Michael’s Hospice in Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards provides excellent holistic care and support for all those throughout Hastings and Rother affected by a progressive life-limiting illness or bereavement. We are very pleased to support this very worthy cause and look forward to seeing a really beautiful, welcoming display of tulips and primula in the hospice gardens early next year”.

Perdita Chamberlain, Head of Income Generation at St Michael’s Hospice added:

“We are delighted with the donation of beautiful plants and tulip bulbs for the Hospice garden. The garden at the Hospice is very special to staff, volunteers, patients and their families. It can be somewhere to simply enjoy the sunshine and relax, take a reflective and quiet walk at what may be a difficult time, or to place a plaque or flowers in remembrance of a loved one. The donated plants will make a welcome addition to our colourful garden and the tulips will create a vibrant welcome along the driveway next year.  We are incredibly grateful to Hastings Borough Council for their generosity and support.”

The council also donated 300 plants to the residential care home, Old Hastings House.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his Autumn Statement earlier this month. Check out the Mcphersons article for a recap on what was announced.

We have a look at how local businesses have reacted to the statement.

Graham Marley, Chief Executive at the Let’s Do Business Group, said he was ‘lukewarm’ about the Chancellor’s first Autumn Statement. He said: “It was a measured approach which lacked the bombshell moment often delivered by George Osborne, but is probably more appropriate for the economy at this time.

“The highlights for businesses are the extra funding to support export finance and £400m fund to support tech firms through Venture Capital.

Philip Johnson, Director of Locate East Sussex, was ‘concerned’ by Mr Hammond’s speech. He said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s investment into transport and housing and very much hope East Sussex is a beneficiary of this additional funding. However, more support is urgently needed to help job creation within the new communities that are being developed.

“It is important the investment to support 5G and broadband provision goes towards  improving coverage and reducing ‘not spots’ in rural areas, as well as making networks faster. The increase in Rural Rate Relief to 100% is good news for a rural communities although it is not clear yet whether this will be extended to all types of businesses or just villages with only one shop such as a convenience store or a pub.”

The inclusive sport programme Sports For All has been awarded the Community Impact Award at the Sussex Sports Awards on Friday 25th November.

The Sport For All programme is delivered by the Active Hastings Team with support from Active Rother; a partnership set up by Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council to provide people with learning disabilities increased opportunities to take part in physical activity.

This inclusive sports programme is part of a wider county initiative hosted by the charity Grace Eyre which encourages people to take part in physical activity.

“We are delighted that scheme has won the Community Impact Award. Congratulations must go to all, a very well deserved result.” said Cllr Dawn Poole, Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for leisure.

“The Sports For All programme works hard to provide a wide and varied range of activities including badminton, boccia, kickboxing, gymnastics and Zumba to enable people with learning disabilities to get active” added Cllr Poole.

The Sussex Sports Awards are held every year and organised by Active Sussex, one of 45 County Sports Partnerships across England.

The Community Impact Award recognises exemplary projects in the county that have made a significant positive impact through sport to targeting social, cultural or health inequalities.

 

A large flower bed on the seafront at Pelham Place has been the most recent in the council’s plans to be refurbished and brought up to date.

In a drive to create more sustainable planting schemes Hastings Borough Council’s landscape contractors idverde UK (formerly The Landscape Group) have now designed and completed the large bed next to Pelham fountain roundabout which had its face-lift earlier this year too.

“At a time when we are looking to save money, the re-design of this flower bed using hardy perennials for a more sustainable scheme is really great news” said Cllr Warren Davies, the council’s lead member for environment.

He added: “By using this planting scheme, similar to the fountain roundabout  which includes kniphofia, hardy geraniums, alliums, penstemons  and a selection of bulbs it will save time and money on watering and weeding. The fountain roundabout has looked fantastic this summer and we look forward to seeing this bed looking just as splendid next season.

“Our thanks must go once again to the contractors for their stirling work in keeping the planted areas of the town looking great, whatever season we’re in.”

For weeks now, senior figures from the world of business have been at pains to point out just how important this year’s Autumn Statement will be.

The new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, stepped up to the despatch box to give his most significant speech since he took charge of the Treasury during the summer.

If his predecessor George Osborne, now watching from the backbenches, had come to be defined by his ongoing battle to balance the books in the wake of a financial crisis, the start of Mr Hammond’s tenure was always going to be overshadowed by one word. Brexit.

Businesses across the UK – and indeed overseas – were watching closely to see how the Government intends to steady the economy ahead of the UK beginning the formal process of leaving the European Union.

In his opening remarks, Mr Hammond laid out his stall.

“We will maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline, while recognising the need for investment to drive productivity,” he said.

Economic overview

The Chancellor will have been acutely aware, as he rose to address the Commons, that many headlines tomorrow would be dominated by the economic outlook and in particular the fall in growth forecasts.

He sought to extenuate the positives, pointing out that employment levels were at a record high, the deficit was falling as a share of GDP and that the economy had shown resilience in the wake of the summer’s referendum.

But he also acknowledged that the Brexit vote meant it was more imperative than ever to tackle any frailties in the nation’s finances, adding that the Government was committed to tackling these challenges head-on.

Growth is expected to be 2.4 per cent lower over the forecast period as a result of the uncertainty arising from the referendum result.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has calculated that growth will be 2.1 per cent this year, falling to 1.4 per cent in 2017.

“That is lower than we would like, but still higher than many of our European neighbours,” said Mr Hammond.

Borrowing, meanwhile, will be 3.5 per cent this year, dropping to 0.7 per cent by 2021-22.

While acknowledging that the Government no longer expected to balance the books by the end of the decade, the Chancellor announced three new fiscal rules: to achieve a surplus in the next Parliament and reduce borrowing to two per cent by the end of this one, to get net debt falling by 2020 and to ensure welfare spending is kept within a cap set by the Government.

Business and enterprise

The Chancellor was unequivocal that he wanted the UK to retain its reputation as a top destination for businesses.

He reiterated his predecessor’s commitment to reduce Corporation Tax to 17 per cent, although speculation that he may announce a further reduction (perhaps to 15 per cent) proved to be wide of the mark.

There was news of a two per cent reduction in the transitional relief cap, which will be overseen by the Communities Secretary, and Rural Rate Relief will increase to 100 per cent. This will be worth up to £2,900 for eligible firms.

Conversely, employers will have to make preparations for another increase in the National Living Wage next year. The statutory wage floor will increase from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 as of April 2017.

As part of efforts to make the UK a “world leader” in 5G broadband, ministers will also be offering 100 per cent business rates relief on new fibre infrastructure from April next year.

Finally £400million will be pumped into venture capital funds, via the British Business Bank, to help unlock £1billion in finance for expanding businesses.

Transport and infrastructure

Mr Hammond said that the Government was committed to high-value investment in the nation’s infrastructure and that all of the UK would feel the benefit, acknowledging that too much onus had been placed on London in the past.

At the core of proposals are plans for a new national productivity investment fund, a £23billion pot which will be used to fund innovation and infrastructure.

There was also a commitment that investment in research and development will increase by £2billion annually by 2020, a £1billion digital infrastructure fund (with an emphasis on improved broadband) and the promise of a £1.1billion in additional spending on England’s transport network.

Property

As had been widely trailed before the speech, Mr Hammond confirmed that he would be banning fees charged by letting agents to tenants.

The move, which had actually been Labour policy at the last General Election, was designed to address the fact that fees were continuing to spiral upwards despite the efforts to regulate them. It had nonetheless attracted criticism in some quarters as another “assault” on landlords.

Mr Hammond admitted that a large section of the population continued to struggle to get a foot on the property ladder and said that the Government would shortly be publishing a new white paper to address some of the pressing issues relating to housing.

The Chancellor also confirmed plans for a £2.3billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will lay the ground for the construction of 100,000 new homes. In addition, there will be a £1.4billion investment to deliver 40,000 additional affordable homes.

As part of ongoing efforts to increase home ownership, there will be a “large-scale regional pilot” of Right to Buy for housing association tenants.

Personal tax

There was welcome news for many taxpayers in the form of an increase to the personal allowance. This will rise from its current level of £11,000 to £11,500 from April 2017. And Mr Hammond said that the Government remained committed to raising it still further (to £12,500) by the end of this Parliament.

Meanwhile, the 40p rate will increase to £50,000 over the course of the same period.

As regards National Insurance (NI), from next April the employee and employer thresholds will be aligned at £157 a week.

There was good news for the nation’s motorists, with the announcement that the Treasury would be cancelling the proposed rise in fuel duty for the seventh year running. On average this is calculated to save car drivers £130 a year and van drivers £350.

However, insurance premium tax will rise to 12 per cent (up from 10 per cent) which some have suggested is likely to wipe out any savings arising from the crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims.

Tax savings relating to salary sacrifice and benefits in kind are also to come to an end, although exceptions will be made for pensions, childcare, cycling and ultra-low emission vehicles.

Pensions and savings

There were comparatively few announcements on pensions, although Mr Hammond did confirm that the Government would usher in a ban on pension cold-calling.

The Chancellor said that the Government was also committed to helping the nation’s savers and set out plans for a three-year investment bond, offering a 2.2 per cent interest rate on deposits of up to £3,000.

Tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning

Mr Hammond said the Government had a proud record of tackling tax avoidance and evasion and that the tax gap was one of the lowest in the world.

As part of the ongoing drive to ensure that businesses pay their fair share, he outlined plans for a new penalty for those who enable tax avoidance, which HMRC later challenges and defeats.

Overall it is calculated that the various anti-tax avoidance measures will raise in the region of £2billion over the forecast period.

End of the Autumn Statement

One of the biggest surprises was the news that this year’s Autumn Statement would be the last.

Next year will be the last time that the Budget takes place in the spring. After that it will be moved to the autumn, and while there will be a Spring Statement, this will be used principally to respond to OBR forecasts rather than as a platform for any major announcements.

Mr Hammond said that having just one financial announcement each year would bring the UK in line with the IMF’s best practice.

Summary

Ahead of today’s speech, the Chancellor seemed to play down the prospect of any dramatic new policy announcements, instead placing emphasis on a tax and spending plan which would prioritise prudence and stability.

Certainly this wasn’t a delivery sprinkled with giveaways and perhaps the biggest surprise – given that the media had been briefed in advance about many of the headline announcements – was that Mr Hammond’s first Autumn Statement would also be his last.

The decision to condense all the major tax and spending plans into one annual summary is partly designed to give businesses greater stability and this may well be welcomed in the current climate.

Mr Hammond is unlikely to get away from the fact that uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU is calculated to have created a £122billion black hole in the national finances.

 

The Marshlink Community Rail Partnership (‘CRP’), part of the Sussex Community Rail Partnership, held its AGM in Rye town hall last Friday (25th November).

Presentations were made by Kevin Barry, the line’s development officer, and guest speakers Andy Harrowell, Southern’s community investment and corporate social responsibility manager, Fiona Dodge and Alan Davies, from the Canterbury Oast Trust, and Amber Rudd MP.

Kevin Boorman, chair of the CRP, said :- “It was an extremely positive meeting, despite the problems the Marshlink has suffered over recent months because of industrial action.

“Alan and Fiona introduced the work of the Canterbury Oast Trust, which has 160 students with learning and physical disabilities. They do fantastic work, and have recently become one of our partners, and have provided the flower tubs on Ashford station.

“We were also pleased that our local MP, Amber Rudd, was able to join us. She acknowledged the difficulties the line has experienced over recent months, and renewed her commitment to do a\l she could to bring high speed rail across the marsh to Hastings and Bexhill.”

“I would like to pay particular tribute to Kevin Barry, the line’s development officer based at Rye. Kevin has worked tirelessly to improve station partnerships, and we have him to thank for a whole range of initiatives, from the flower tubs at Ashford through the Captain Pugwash exhibition at rye, the photographic exhibitions at Bexhill, and so much more.

“Kevin is well supported by volunteers, and I would like to pay tribute to their work too. The Marshlink is a great example of true partnership, or should I say partnerships, which really benefits the line, those who travel along it, and the communities it serves.”

Friendship Link Teachers prepare for 10th Anniversary of Town Twinning by asking some big questions about education.

As twelve local schools here in Hastings prepare to visit their twinned schools in Hastings Sierra Leone in the tenth anniversary year, they have been attending courses both here and in Hastings Sierra Leone to encourage pupils to ask some big questions.

“Can you trust what you see – hear – read?” “How can we assess the reliability of information?” “How can we use reliable information to solve problems?” These are the big questions that pupils in Hastings UK and their partner schools in Sierra Leone are being encouraged to ask.

Teachers from 12 school partnerships with Sierra Leone have been working on bringing ideas of critical thinking into their teaching in the classroom and are excited by the response of pupils of all ages. One teacher remarked; “we have seen children of all ages becoming more confident and more articulate in talking about their own thinking. It’s really exciting”. Another said “there are no areas of the curriculum that will not benefit from a more questioning approach”.

All this is being achieved through a course devised by the British Council, the final session of which was led last week by Course Director, Tim Guilford on behalf of Creative Education Partnerships. Ideas generated through the course are becoming integrated into the teaching and learning styles in all participating schools, both here and in Sierra Leone.

The Hastings UK course was held at the White Rock Hotel. In Sierra Leone the course was held at the Hastings Twin Town Centre, which was built with funding from the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, after the Hastings-Hastings Twinning in February 2007. Representatives there at the time included MP Michael Foster, Deputy Mayor Eve Martin, and Council leaders Jeremy Birch and Peter Pragnell. Plans are being made for a visit in February next year to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the twinning and it is hoped that some of those who attended in 2007 will be able to join the group.

Roger Mitchell, the Link’s Education Liaison Officer, said; “It is exciting to find how the efforts of the Friendship Link are making a real impact, benefitting the community of our Twin Town. Sierra Leoneans clearly understand that a vital key to their country’s future lies in quality education.  We, in Hastings UK, are making a significant contribution, while at the same time expanding horizons for our own students. It is a real win-win situation”.

All 12 schools are hoping to visit their partner schools in Sierra Leone. Isabel Hodger, who organised the British Council’s involvement, said; “We expect to be able to accompany groups of teachers in both February 2017 and 2018 and schools are starting to raise funds to bring SL teachers to the UK for a week in May 17”.

Hastings Youth Awards 2016 took place on Sunday 20th November at Sussex Coast College, Hastings.

Over 450 people came together to celebrate the achievements of young people and youth organisations from across the town at this special event organised by Hastings Youth Council.youth-awards-2016-group-sam_3722-c-indiana-hamilton-brown-sm

“It was lovely to see so many young people gathered together on this night of celebration. I was very proud to be involved and present awards to all the very deserving organisations and individuals and they should be very proud of their achievements too” said the mayor, Cllr Judy Rogers.

“The Hastings Youth Awards is the only youth award ceremony in our county and showcases everything positive about young people in Hastings” said Huda Caglayan, chair of Hastings Youth Council. She added: “Sadly young people are not always shown in a positive light and this event goes a long way to address this. This year we had 450 people attend and we celebrated 20 winners with organisations and individuals who contribute to our community being recognised for all their hard work”.

Youth award winners included Acromax Gymnastics Club, Fusion Street Dance, Kids and Muslim Mums, the Playdays Young Volunteers Project and many more. Three organisations, Hastings Coastal Twirlers, Sparks and Gizmo were lucky winners in the raffle each receiving £100.

“Once again this event was a huge success and our thanks must go to the Youth Council for all their hard work and effort in organising and presenting the event on the night. It’s really important that young people and organisations in our town are recognised in this way. Congratulations to them all!” said Cllr Kim Forward the council’s lead member for communities.