Report by Tom McCann
Half empty and deserted car parks at the height of the pandemic cost Hastings Borough Council (HBC) in the region of £400,000 it was revealed at yesterday’s Charity Committee meeting.
The full figure was not shared and a report has not yet been published, but Kit Wheeler, Chief Accountant and Deputy Chief Finance Officer for HBC, said that parking income for this year has also been severely reduced.
“Even if the car parks are full for the majority of the summer and autumn months, we still won’t make up that loss.
“We are expecting a good, healthy summer… but we need to bear in mind any further lockdowns could severely impact our finances. What we don’t know and need further time to assess, is further impact on the wider economic situation.”
A deficit exceeding budget expectations is anticipated for 2020/21. According to report prepared for councillors: “Once grant and project costs are taken into account a deficit of £392,000 is anticipated against a budgeted deficit of £48,000.”
Councillors were discussing the financial position of the Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Trust and heard that £52,499 has been allocated in funding for applicants to the Small and Events Grant Round 4.
Public toilets were also up for discussion during the meeting when Councillor Andy Batsford referred to last year when facilities in Hastings and St Leonards were closed due to the pandemic, and said: “People were taking their toiletry needs into their own hands.”
Councillors spoke of the need for marshals on the seafront to ensure that toilet facilities remain open and in working order.
“On a busy weekend, if people are unable to use the toilets, it doesn’t reflect well on us,” said Councillor Trevor Webb, Chair of the committee.
The committee also rubber stamped The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s lifeguard contract for Hastings that has been extended for a further three years following on from the success of their previous contract.
In the report to committee councillors were told: “…the RNLI is the ‘gold standard’ of lifesaving at sea and is able to provide a better service at better value than we can provide in-house.”