‘Ungenerous and mean-spirited’ is how Hastings constituency Labour Party (CLP) has summed up the town’s two leading Conservative politicians.
A press release issued by the CLP says: “The latest attacks on Labour by local Tory MP Sally-Ann Hart and her council colleague Rob Lee give new meaning to the old adages ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ … and ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’.”
The attack comes after both Mrs Hart and Councillor Lee, who leads the opposition Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council (HBC), claimed at the end of last month that the council had been ‘negligent’ during the pandemic and had ‘failed’ to open up the town for business.
“The attacks, while aimed at the Labour leadership of the council, in fact target the whole community,” the press release says.
“None of the great work the council has done during the pandemic would have been possible without the selfless dedication of council staff and that of community and voluntary organisations and their many hundreds of volunteers who rallied round to help their neighbours.
“The creation of a Community Hub in partnership with others, organised through the council, enabled help to be directed to the most vulnerable in our town at a time of acute crisis.
“Where possible, council services continued under lockdown conditions, and where not, facilities such as toilets were closed.
“Thousands more in the town heeded government warnings and played their part. On Easter Sunday, for instance, the Old Town, normally buzzing with life, was as a quiet as a mouse
Visitors were warned not to visit the town in order to keep our residents safe, not as Councillor Lee suggests, as some sort of socialist plot. Our Labour council is proud of our small businesses – the lifeblood of our community, who provide jobs, livelihoods and so much more,” says the CLP.
‘As lockdown measures ease, protecting our residents is perhaps even more important…’
They go on to point out that government financial help for businesses, such as small shops and the hospitality sector, “was efficiently channelled by council officials” to all those who requested it.
With Hastings’ town centre and local high streets re-opening for trade, the CLP points out that the council has been working hard to support local businesses coming out of lockdown.
It quotes HBC leader Kim Forward who says: “It is well known that Hastings has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and I want to personally thank everyone who has helped this happen.
“Our priority throughout this crisis has been, and continues to be, keeping residents healthy, supporting businesses and helping them keep their employees safe.
“We now feel we can cautiously welcome visitors back to our town and we are working with businesses to help them to follow the new guidelines and make sure they are operating safely, and this is very challenging for them. We don’t want to see them overrun immediately.
“As lockdown measures ease, protecting our residents is perhaps even more important than before and may be more difficult than ever.”
The CLP’s press release asks: “So what exactly were Councillor Lee and MP Hart getting at – apart from taking a party political poke at the opposition?
‘No one is trying to keep Hastings closed – except in Ms Hart’s biased imagination…’
“Mr Lee suggests tourists should have been welcomed back earlier – contrary to his own government’s advice, and regardless of any risk to residents.
“At the time of writing, it is government advice to avoid large groups of people. Anyone familiar the Old Town, knows that large numbers descending on it would make social distancing virtually impossible.
“Mr Lee’s reckless suggestions are of a piece with those of Sally Ann Hart. The MP admitted in an interview on June 21st, that the government had made mistakes. Arguably a massive understatement in itself. She then went on to say that Hastings was ‘negligent’ in not opening up the town – and the toilets – earlier, stating: ‘We must not keep Hastings closed’.
“No one is trying to keep Hastings closed – except in Ms Hart’s biased imagination. And toilets were opened when it was safe to do so.
“And no praise from her for the community spirit which helped keep the infection rate low and people safe and connected. Or for Hastings Council’s part in achieving that. Not a word.
“Ungenerous and mean-spirited don’t even begin to cover it,” concludes the CLP.