Now that visitors are allowed (in limited numbers) down at our boathouse, we’re pleased to be having visitors. Our latest, on 4th June 21, was our local Hastings and Rye MP, Sally-Ann Hart.
On her last visit to our boathouse last September our problems accessing grants the local government made available to charities in the pandemic were a real topic for discussion! And since then, mindful of the role we play in the community, Sally-Ann has remained in touch. In particular, Sally-Ann has been working with us to identify how local and national government could better support a charity such as ours – ie: an independent rescue boat service with a unique, historic set up which falls outside of the criteria for the majority of grants made available by the local authority.
But in April, after a long year of challenges and a worrying deficit in our running costs, we finally secured a Discretionary Grant of just under £5,000 from Rother District Council. Sally-Ann was very pleased to hear the news and keen to re-visit to find out more about our work and plans for 2021.
“I was really pleased to hear that the government grant has been useful. I would urge everyone to support this local charity that does so much to support its local community and beach safety.”
Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings & Rye
Helm and Launch Authority volunteer Steve gave Sally-Ann a tour of the boathouse, operational facilities and Look Out areas. This opportunity to review our facilities and log-book gave Sally-Ann a good insight into the extensive demands on our self-funded rescue service. And of course, she was also able to see first-hand the facilities and equipment needed to maintain operations.
With this in mind, chat led to the costs of keeping our rescue service (including the volunteers) fully equipped and safely operational. From there, our future funding and equipment needs were discussed, so Steve shared the plans for our upcoming equipment upgrade of a Bluetooth, hands-free communication system for our Pulfer boat and crews.
Out in all weathers
All of which led us back outside to view our most recent (and huge) equipment upgrade: the almost-finished replacement launch & recovery vehicle. As locals know, this vehicle is absolutely essential for launching our boats – whatever the weather and tide is doing! If it’s high, a vehicle’s essential to safely negotiate the shingle beach; if it’s low then there’s a long way to go, across shingle, rocks, sinking mud and sand to get the boats to the water! To cope with all this, the vehicle needs to be fully robust and extremely reliable.
“It’s great to have an update on the work that the volunteers at Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat are engaging with, and to see the new launch and recovery vehicle.”
Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings & Rye
But it doesn’t come cheap and although the vehicle’s now up and running, it’s already cost just shy of £25,000, with more to go. And of course, it doesn’t stop there, as the vehicle that this newly refurbished one replaces now needs an upgrade and refit of its own, as we do need a functional reserve launch vehicle!
Despite the seriously deteriorating weather, Sally-Ann then chatted to other volunteers about these future plans, plus recent call outs, how they have managed to maintain a service throughout the pandemic and the difference that finally receiving the Rother Council grant in helping us to cover our running costs for 2021.
Independent Lifeboat Association
Sally-Ann also gave an update on her collaboration with other MPs, to help establish an Independent Lifeboat Association (ILA). The aim of the ILA is to build awareness and recognition for the work of independent lifeboat and rescue boat charities across the UK generally.
After the visit Kev, our charity’s Chair, had a few words to say about why it’s particularly welcome when the local authority, public figures and businesses support a charity which funds its own running costs, year-in-year out.
“It was good to see Sally-Ann Hart, even though it was so wet and blustery for her visit! Sally-Ann had a good look around the rescue boat facilities and was impressed with what she saw. It’s good to receive the support for what we do and we are heartened by her ongoing support, especially with her involvement with the start of a national independent lifeboat association. Everyone here is a volunteer and we look forward to more interest and support in the future.”
Kev, Chair of PLIRB Charity
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Thank you so much, from the volunteers at Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat.