D4B Newsletter – August 2017

Dear D4B Supporter,

As you will know the primary purpose of D4B has been to encourage participation in the Community Governance Review. The core group of residents who launched D4B are of all political persuasions and also held differing views opinions as to the best governance option for the town. Some were firmly of the view that a town council was best, others that an area committee would be better; some had yet to make up their minds.

In order to be able to present to residents the pros and cons of these two options core group members have gathered a substantial amount of information from both town councils and area committees. As the core group has digested and discussed this information the consensus of opinion within the group has swung heavily towards a town council as the best option for Bexhill.

At the meeting of the core group on Tuesday 22nd August a motion that D4B now formally declare its support for a town council over all other options received overwhelming support. Accordingly, we will now campaign specifically for that option.

We remain committed to encouraging the widest possible participation in stage 2 of the consultation process which runs from 1st September to 4.30pm 13th October. Our leaflet will give details of all four options as well as setting out why we believe a town council to be superior to the other options.

It has always been our view that the decision on how Bexhill is governed should be determined by the residents. This remains our core value whatever the decision Rother District Council should make.

Kind Regards,

Doug Oliver, Chairman D4B

07917 845737: dougoliver1@hotmail.co.uk

text: 07555 162396
web: democracy4bexhill.com
email: info@democracy4bexhill.com 
Tweet: @D4Bexhill (twitter.com/d4bexhill)
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Fund Us! Donations to: crowdfunder.co.uk/d4b

“Democracy4Bexhill urges town to support consultation”

18th August 2017

The second phase of a consultation into the future on how Bexhill is governed starts next month. Rother District Council’s Community Governance Review steering group met last Thursday (August 10) to decide on the next move. But campaign group, Democracy4Bexhill (D4B) is annoyed after it said the authority refused an offer from the group to print and distribute the council’s own information on the consultation and returnable postcards for free. Doug Oliver, chairman of D4B, said: “We just want to reach every resident of Bexhill, to make sure that everyone has a say on this important issue.

“Many people want to see a town council or other form of local democracy but Rother is clearly not keen on hearing their voices. We will now distribute information ourselves.” D4B said Rother’s deputy leader Martin Kenward has made it clear an ‘overwhelming response’ is needed to persuade the authority to consider backing any change. The campaign group said it is producing, printing and delivering explanatory literature to every household in Bexhill, a project entirely funded by donations from residents. Rother’s six-week consultation starts on Friday, September 1 and ends on Friday, October 13.

Reproduced from the Bexhill Observer

How much would a Town Council for Bexhill cost?

How much would it cost?

Running a town council would cost an average of 14p per week per household. Obviously, if we all want improvements in Bexhill, they may need to be paid for by an increase in council tax. So if there is demand for a really good dementia project, or a youth centre or a tourism information point, all these will have a price tag. However,  a town council will have access to funds that even Rother can’t access. Most importantly, the services the town council provides would depend entirely on what the people of Bexhill want.

The 18 town councillors would not be paid and modest premises would be found.

“The Council never ceases to amaze”

From: Michael Crotty, Shepherds Close, Bexhill

August 24th 2017

The audacity of our council never fails to amaze me, and the gall of its illustrious leader to blatantly insult the residents of Bexhill shows a total lack of courtesy, decency and moral judgement. He didn’t consider enough of us were interested to merit sending out a leaflet to fully explain the ins and outs of Governance so that in a future referendum many more would understand and request freedom from his stranglehold on our town. It was carefully voted out avoiding any mention that the reason was anything to do with cost, although the expense involved was quite specifically mentioned as unjustified.

Saturday, the reason for this hush hush approach became obvious… I, along with the rest of Bexhill/Rother, received a notice “commanding” me to confirm the current record held of my household in preparation for the electoral registration form, which I would receive separately. It carried a specific threat of a £1,000 fine for failure to comply! This cost RDC to send out even if it was via HEF. Then there was the stamped addressed envelope for a postal reply… Costs money! But this is only a prelude to another communication with the real electoral registration form inside… More money! Plus of course, the mandatory return envelope… Again more money!

Yes Bexhill, you’re paying for this. It might be said to come from some obscure council fund but it still originates from your council tax. This is nothing short of childish behaviour. “We won’t go to the expense of sending out information that could affect the lives of every resident of Bexhill, but we will to send out an electoral form ‘twice’ that asks the same questions?” I have no doubt that the blame for this will be laid at someone else’s door. Bexhill doesn’t need your unacceptable unilateral decisions which are ratified by the herd of sheep who obey your whistle.

Although I detected murmurs of dissent that too much of some government cash was going to Bexhill. Good luck to D4B, Lets hope that your efforts will show that the people of Bexhill do want to run their town and for their benefit.

Reproduced from the Bexhill Observer

 

“A council could make savings”

From: Carole Woodland, Cooden Drive, Bexhill

24 August 2017

Speaking at the town council meeting, Trevor Leggo, chief executive of Sussex & Surrey Associations of Local Councils, made it clear that although Bexhill might have to accept a slight rise in council tax to have a town council, such a council could also make savings. Richard Farhall, town clerk of Rye Town Council, showed why Rye was pleased to have the services of a town council. Without a town council, Bexhill might find itself at Rother’s mercy when cuts from national government come into force.

Other areas of Rother with their own town/parish councils should have their local services protected. Will Rother target our toilets, vital to both young and old? Do you trust the Rother Cabinet, dominated by Maynard and his rural cronies, to make choices which are in Bexhill’s best interests? New town councils have been very successful elsewhere, when the county and district council are committed to devolving not only services, but also assets to the town council. If Maynard, Kenward et al continue to cling like barnacles to the no change ship, has the time come to chip some of them off in the Rother elections?

Reproduced from http://www.bexhillobserver.net/news/your-say/a-council-could-make-savings-1-8119138

Rother refuses offer by Democracy group

Press release

At the recent meeting of Rother’s Community Governance Review Steering Group on 10th August, councillors insisted that if Bexhillians want to express their views on a town council or other form of local governance as part of the second phase of the consultation, they can ONLY do it online, or on individual Rother postcards which have to be collected from the town hall or local councillors. They even refused an offer from the non-party-political campaign group Democracy4Bexhill (D4B) to print and distribute Rother’s own information and returnable postcards for them, at no cost.

“We just want to reach every resident of Bexhill, to make sure that everyone has a say on this important issue”, said an exasperated Doug Oliver, Chair of D4B, “Many people want to see a town council or other form of local democracy but Rother are clearly not keen on hearing their voices. We will now distribute information ourselves.”
The Deputy Leader, Councillor Martin Kenward has made it clear that an “overwhelming response” will be needed to persuade councillors to consider backing any change, but as councillors refuse to leaflet residents to ask their views, even at no cost to the Council, D4B is valiantly filling the breach by producing, printing and delivering explanatory literature to every household in Bexhill. The project is being entirely funded by donations from Bexhill residents.
Rother will run a six-week consultation period from Friday, 1 September 2017 – Friday, 13 October 2017 at 4:30 pm. People who live or work in Bexhill are being asked to tick a box, and provide their names and addresses. They will be provided with four choices: no change, a Bexhill Town Council, a Rother Area Committee of Bexhill councillors with no executive decision-making ability, or four parish councils splitting Bexhill into North, South, East and West.
Councillor Gillian Johnson argued that if D4B’s offer was accepted, there would be a risk of fraud. (It is unclear how the online response itself can be policed for fraud or how the town hall would cope with thousands of older residents from the 16% of households in Bexhill without access to computers, coming to ask for their individual postcards).
D4B is also concerned about the bias and misrepresentation of costs in the information that Rother has supplied in public documents. “We will not be put off by half-truths or exaggerations,” said Doug Oliver, “We urge everyone who can, to go to Rother website in September and make their views known. We think better local democracy offers exciting possibilities for Bexhill. Perhaps they think that Bexhill people don’t care. They may get a surprise.”

If you want to know more or you want to get involved with the Democracy4Bexhill campaign, you can visit their Facebook page “Democracy4Bexhill” or emailinfo@democracy4bexhill.com or phone Doug Oliver on 07917 845 737.

“Residents voice calls for Bexhill to have its own council”

August 24th, 2017

Scores of residents voiced their wish to see a town council established in Bexhill at a meeting last Thursday (August 17). More than 150 people packed into St Barnabas Church to air their views. The second phase of a consultation into the future on how Bexhill is governed is due to start next week. Rother District Council’s six-week consultation runs from next Friday (September 1) until Friday, October 13.

People will be provided with four choices: no change, a Bexhill Town Council, an area committee made up of Bexhill councillors with no executive decision-making ability, or four parish councils splitting Bexhill into North, South, East and West.

Last Thursday’s meeting heard from Trevor Leggo, chief executive of Sussex & Surrey Associations of Local Councils; Richard Farhall, town clerk for Rye Town Council; East Sussex county councillor Stuart Earl; Independent Rother councillor Doug Oliver; Bexhill resident Julia Penfold and other residents asking questions from the floor.

Bexhill is the only part of the Rother district not to have either a parish nor town council. A 4,000-strong petition from residents triggered the Community Governance Review. Robin Patten, independent chairman of the review’s steering group, said: “We want to hear from as many people as possible, including those who haven’t taken part in the first phase of the consultation.

“Residents will play a vital role in the second phase by giving their views on the options. “In order to keep costs to a minimum, we are encouraging those that can respond online to do so. “For those who can’t, information and response postcards are available from the council’s Community Help Point in Bexhill or by contacting their local councillor.” He added: “As well as being effective and providing value for money, any arrangements which are introduced must represent the identity and the interests of people in Bexhill.”

Campaign group, Democracy4Bexhill (D4B) was left annoyed after it said Rother refused an offer from the group to print and distribute the council’s own information on the consultation and returnable postcards for free. Residents can find out more information about the review by visiting the council’s website at www.rother.gov.uk/CommunityGovernanceReview.

Reproduced from the Bexhill Observer 

A Bexhill town council – what’s all this about?

For some years now, Bexhill residents have been campaigning for more of a voice in decisions affecting their town. Everyone else living within Rother has a parish or town council, but Bexhill doesn’t.  We need one –  not to replace Rother, as Rother will continue as the second tier of local government but to represent Bexhill residents’ interests better.

History, ancient and modern

In 1902 Edward VII awarded Bexhill a royal charter to become Bexhill Borough Council. This was a source of great pride. But the council was lost in 1974 when Bexhill, Battle and Rye were merged along with the 29 parish councils to become the mostly rural Rother District Council. Rye kept its own town council, and so did Battle, but Bexhill’s 40,000 residents? Oddly, no.

In 2015, concerned citizens organised a petition with 4,000 people asking Rother for more democracy.  Legally, this forced Rother to respond and to set up a consultation process called the Community Governance Review 2017. In Phase 1 of this, the public was asked their views.

To help promote this public consultation, petitioners set up a voluntary group called Democracy 4 Bexhill, D4B: a non-party group that wants the consultation to be open, fair and effective, and which is working to promote it and spread the word.

900 people responded to Rother’s consultation: twice as many as any previous public consultation held by Rother. The majority wanted a town council. The special steering committee that Rother set up to guide the whole CGR process recommended that in Phase 2 this summer, they would send Bexhill’s 23,000 households a leaflet setting out the options for governance and asking their views. Rother then would make the decision over whether Bexhill could have its own council.

At the last minute, Rother cancelled the steering committee’s meeting called to approve the leaflet. Then they insisted on adding an additional option that had never been referred to before, cancelled the leaflet drop saying it would cost too much, and effectively suspended everything by referring the whole process back to the steering committee! The Council meekly followed its leader. So now we wait to see what they are going to do. The clock is ticking. The law says they must complete the consultation process by January 2018.

Four options

The four options that have been proposed:

  • No change.
  • A town council.  It would have some powers, some capacity to raise money to provide services, and it could represent Bexhill’s interests more effectively than what happens now. It would cost a household in Band D, about 12p a week.
  • An area committee. That would bring together the current 18 Rother councillors for Bexhill to meet occasionally, but Rother has said it would have no powers.
  • Four parish councils. Each one would need a part-time paid town clerk.

What is a town council?

All over the UK, there are usually three tiers of local government with different responsibilities – in our area, we have

  • East Sussex County Council (roads, social services, education etc),
  • Rother District Council (environmental protection, waste, housing, planning) and
  • a parish or town council (except not for Bexhill!)

A town council is a statutory body and is the most local level of government. It serves the local area, and plays an important role in promoting the town, representing its interests and supporting the work of different groups in the community. It can wield “soft power” – in Bexhill this would mean influencing important decisions on Bexhill issues made by Rother or East Sussex County Council.

Town councils also have a number of formal powers. Many provide allotments, and look after playing fields, and other types of leisure facilities. They maintain rights of way, bus shelters, public benches or toilets and smaller scale street lighting.  Town councils are often concerned with the provision of community buildings, and with services for children, youth or old people. They can provide a tourist information service or even get initiate projects on housing or older people. They can do these things themselves or can fund other organisations, such as a charity, to do them through grants or contracts. In some areas they reinstate services which the bigger local authority has cut. As some of Rother’s parish councils already do, it could prepare a neighbourhood development plan or order which becomes part of the local development plan for the area and must be used as a basis for making decisions on planning. The town council would also receive up to 25% of the money paid by developers towards local infrastructure.

The Localism Act 2012 was a landmark act which gave greater powers to parish and town councils and encouraged greater community involvement. But Rother has not embraced this. A town council offers the people this involvement, with democratic representation and accountability, and the ability to deliver existing services or provide additional services.

A town council would be elected. The councillors will not be paid: unlike Rother councillors, town councillors are not normally given an allowance.  A town council would need a qualified town clerk, and modest premises – perhaps shop premises in Bexhill.

What can I do?

Support us! Find Democracy4 Bexhill on Facebook or website www.democracy4bexhill.com. Write to info@democracy4bexhill.com. Chair Doug Oliver is on 07917 845737 or Vice Chair Christine Bayliss on 01424 218250. Rother’s own website is informative, at www.rother.gov.uk, just search for Community Governance Review.

But the most important thing is to VOTE! The voting opened on September 1st 2017 and runs to 1630 on October 13th.  Please talk to your friends and neighbours and make sure that thousands of people make their views known. Let’s show them that Bexhill residents do care about local democracy. Vote by going direct to https://surveymechnics.com/s/bexCGR or ask for a voting postcard from Rother town hall or from your local councillor.

Perhaps they think we’re not bothered?

They may be in for a surprise.