Mayor's Blog - Town Mayor Councillor D Wade

20 April 2020

One thing I have learnt this year as Mayor of Hythe is that Hythe always rises to a crisis.

Look back in History and you’ll see that this is true. This town’s response to any challenge has always been resolute and generous, working with our closest friends in the Cinque Ports and reaching out to help those further afield.

This has proved true again these last few weeks. The people of Hythe have shown courage, discipline, and solidarity in facing up to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the outset of the pandemic, several Councillors approached me articulating the need for a prompt, rational and coordinated response from Hythe Town Council to the crisis.

Cllr Whybrow then took the lead in putting together this response, meeting with our GPs, Age UK, the Salvation Army, Folkestone and Hythe District Council, Kent County Council, the Rotary Club and representatives of local businesses to set up the Hythe Community Support Hub to ensure that the right services would be provided to everyone in our community who needs them during these difficult times. Every resident over 70 and in high risk groups would be contacted directly. Leaflets informing residents of the Hub’s contact details and services would be delivered to every resident. Volunteers would be recruited, checked, and trained.

To date, all of these objectives have been met. I believe everyone over 70 has now been contacted. My own mother received a call last week from a volunteer enquiring as to her needs and welfare and offering support. She was greatly impressed by this and told me how proud she feels of Hythe.

Over 270 volunteers have already been checked and trained and are now helping residents with meals, shopping, medicines, and emotional support. Many more volunteers have put themselves forward. The Salvation Army has stepped up its food bank provision dramatically.

In the midst of this generous and impressive effort, I must just mention Cleo and Hayley at Age UK who are at the heart of the whole operation, and the Mayor’s Chaplain, Captain Callum McKenna at the Salvation Army who embodies the Sally Army’s wonderful tradition of service to others.

Hythe’s initiative has now been copied by other towns across the region and was the first or one of the first hubs formed nationally. Our local businesses have all contributed greatly – the Stade Court Hotel offering its services from the outset, as well as the Imperial, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, etc.

Following expressions of concern from a number of residents, I’ve also spoken to the Hythe Business and Tourism Association about the position of our High Street businesses and their chances of surviving the lockdown. HBTA has been supporting all its members to access help and financial support and it seems that we can be hopeful that all our traders will be able to remain in business following the lockdown so that Hythe will not become a ghost town.

One other very heart-warming piece of news is that our wonderful Hythe Twinning Association, despite being unable to meet, has now raised £300 for the Hythe Community Support Hub, £300 for the Salvation Army Food Bank, £200 for the Pilgrims Hospices, and £200 for Talbot House that serves those in need in our twinned town of Poperinge, in Belgium. That kind of generosity in the hour of need will not be forgotten. It shows who your real friends are.

I could mention numerous other associations, businesses and individuals in Hythe making similar contributions – babysitting for the children of nurses, gleaning food for the Food Bank, providing lessons online for students, protecting the victims of domestic abuse…

As for the Hythe Community Support Hub, it has reportedly taken some of the strain off our GPs at this time of exceptional demand, allowing them to concentrate on purely medical matters. That has undoubtedly saved lives in addition to the lives surely saved by the other services the Hub and its volunteers provide free of charge.

And finally, let me pay tribute to our doctors, nurses, carers, paramedics, porters, cleaners, cooks, and all of those working in our NHS. We know they are putting their lives on the line for us. Indeed, several doctors and nurses in our region have already lost their lives through their total dedication to the service of others. We applaud them all every Thursday evening in Hythe – people standing at their front doors, leaning out of windows, celebrating the best of Humanity.

I didn’t expect it to be this way when I was elected as Mayor of Hythe last May. I had far rather this crisis had never arisen. But one thing is for sure – this has shown our Cinque Port of Hythe as it really is – brave, compassionate, generous and resolute.