Disaster by privateers, public services to the rescue

My, but I am glad we live at the top of the hill! Here’s today in Hastings from my point of view…

Meandering to Disaster

I got just past breakfast time before the power went off. By then, I had noted that, the garden now being completely water-logged, the side path had become a river which was temporarily dammed by winter detritus on our front steps. Wellies on, brush and shovel out, that was easy enough to deal with – and something to do until there was enough daylight to do anything without power indoors.

An hour later, I strolled down the road to see if I could find any electrics people to ask when we’d be back on stream. I found one in Priory Avenue, sitting in his van doing frantic things on his tablet, “bit busy now,” he said, “because of the flood…”

I walked down the road a bit further and went “oh.”

By then, daughter (they still had power up that end of town) had alerted me to such things as this eel, spotted swimming through the town centre.

Eel in town centre

Eel video from BBC Sussex

An hour or so later, they found us some electricity and I saw the rest of the story on Sussex Live…

Town centre this morning

Story on Sussex Live

But the story goes back much further. Here is the infamous storm drain in South Terrace this morning…

Storm drain in South Terrace

I say ‘infamous’ because it is generally the first warning we get that things are going awry in Hastings. It’s one of many such steps on the way to the stormwater outfall on the beach, which has been broken for some time, and apparently is waiting for attention from Southern Water. This is the second time this winter an inundation has begun in South Terrace, and I remember yet another series of appeals for action to the water company from frustrated Borough Councillors, emergency services, and local residents who were getting used to keeping sand-bags in front of their houses.

We were supposed to be safe from town centre flooding since the famous double-decker-sized stormwater tunnel was bored through Hastings over twenty years ago…

Read about the storm drain project on Historic Hastings

I don’t think they ever promised that the new drainage system wouldn’t need maintenance, though — and private water companies, like most of the companies who’ve taken over what were our public services, never seem to see the point in maintenance. In the last couple of years for instance, there have been appeals and complaints from Hastings people about the multiple occasions Southern Water have befouled our seawater.

Surveying the damage

As I said I’m very glad we live at the top of the hill but this is our town – Himself and I walked down to see what was going on, and found it was a long walk to get into town. South Terrace was under water, so was Station Road (with the lower level of the multi-storey carpark and the shopping arcade inundated), Cricketer’s Square was impassable, and Middle Street closed. We walked down Havelock Road, and discovered parts of the bottom of Queens Road and Harold Place (where the eel was spotted) still under water. Those roads were already full of ruts and in some places, quite deep holes because the County Council, run by Tories, is rather like Southern Water when it comes to maintenance work. Just think what those pot-hole riven roads are going to be like now, after being under water yet again.

There were fire engines and police cars and all manner of public service workers all over everywhere setting up pumps, as well as the most unfortunate town centre residents busy bailing out low-lying properties. Trying to work out the number of people who’ve been thrown into chaos, or the extent of the expense, was beyond us.

The expense of privatisation

So when those politicians tell you how cost-effective privatisation is, do please remind them that the cost is paid in public service work and losses to people’s lives, homes and incomes and please (because this is the most important thing of all, I believe) please don’t forget, this “private is more efficient” game is currently being played with our NHS, by politicians of all the major parties. They tell us how expensive our public services are, and that bringing in contractors will make it more affordable. Please don’t let them get away with it.

Ah well – the rain’s stopped now. Care for a walk in the park…?

Alexandra Park

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