Labour has picked a new leader to take over from Peter Chowney when he steps down from the helm of Hastings Borough Council next month.
Current deputy, Kim Forward, was the choice of Labour councillors at a hustings this week, and becomes the first woman to lead the party, in power, locally.
Fellow councillor Margi O’Callaghan described it as: “An amazing achievement for women in local politics” and “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.”
Peter Chowney said: “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, Kim has lived and worked in and around Hastings and St Leonards all her life. She has five children and five grandchildren.
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 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.
More recently Kim has had cabinet responsibility for regeneration, tourism and culture. 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 it will replace the existing deteriorating and dated facilities.
Hugely experienced, Kim is reckoned by many to be the right woman for the job – especially at a time of government cuts.
Fellow Gensing councillor Colin Fitzgerald said: “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.”
The funding crisis – affecting councils throughout the country – is forcing Hastings to radically restructure its services and, for the first time, to make compulsory redundancies.
Kim paid tribute to Peter Chowney’s legacy as leader and to his collaborative style of working. She said: “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.”
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