D4B suspends its activity until after the election on May 2nd 2019.

Pleae note:

For the duration of the Rother District Election Campaign – Democracy4Bexhill will suspend its activity. For information about the campaign to secure a Town Council for Bexhill – please contact the groups who form D4B:

Association of Independent Councillors – Doug Oliver –dougoliver1@hotmail.co.uk 07917 845737

Bexhill Labour Party – Christine Bayliss –bayliss4bexhillandbattle@gmail.com 07904953255

Bexhill Liberal Democrats – Diane Smith – 01424 220994 diane_m_smith@outlook.com

Green Party – Polly Gray – mrspollygray@gmail.com

D4B launches a campaign for better Rother councillors!

Press release 

Democracy4Bexhill has launched a campaign to get better councillors elected to Rother District Council on 2 May 2019.

In 2017 Rother held a consultation called a Community Governance Review on whether to improve local governance. Over eight thousand residents of Bexhill called for Rother to allow a town council to be set up, 93.5% of the entire response. However, Rother Councillors refused.

“We were staggered at the decision, it seemed they did not really care what the residents of Bexhill wanted. “said Doug Oliver, Chair of D4B, “People have been taking a closer look at how Rother treats Bexhill and how they run things, and they are not impressed. So we decided to encourage new candidates to stand against the current councillors, people who would listen and who would bring in some new ideas and enthusiasm to Bexhill, and give the residents more of a voice.  They have come forward. If they get in, we would be one step nearer to getting a Bexhill Town Council too”.

Candidates from all parties are being encouraged to say on their publicity material whether they support the idea of a town council, and display the D4B promise of “If elected, I will support the creation of a Bexhill Town Council.” Having a town council would enable the town to make improvements and offer services that its residents want, and the cost would not be great, as there are over 43,000 residents to share it.

A special D4B newsletter has just been produced and will be distributed to every household in Bexhill by an army of volunteers. It reminds residents which councillors voted against the idea of a town council and gives details of some of the concerns that the public have about Rother.

Democracy4Bexhill is an all-party/independent community group with no political affiliation.

The story so far

Democracy4Bexhill is all about making sure that the residents of Bexhill get more of a say on their town.  From 1902 to 1974, Bexhill had its own borough council, giving pride and status to the town, but it was abolished in 1974, taken over by Rother District Council. The Rother councillors now representing Bexhill do not have a majority, even over matters closely related to the town.

A huge campaign was launched and won wide popular support. A town council could do SO MUCH for the town! Rother was obliged by law to hold a consultation. Thousands took part. Most consultations get a few hundred response: this one was massive.

Then came Rother’s decision. On December 18th, 2017, by 18 to 13 votes,  at a full council meeting, Rother said er…….no.  No town council.

They voted in favour of no change.

9,227 people had participated in the consultation, of whom only 364 had supported the idea of no change. Whereas 8, 631 wanted a town council!

Only one of the Rother councillors representing Bexhill voted for a town council: the others opposed it, or were not there.

This extraordinary decision stunned the residents of Bexhill, but the campaign for a town council has not stopped. Democracy4Bexhill is continuing the fight, and backed up by a public meeting, decided to encourage new people to stand as councillors in the next election for Rother, which will be held in May 2019.

See our summer newsletter in our News Section for more info.

 

 

 

 

Deadline extended!

Rother has extended the deadline for people to “vote” to 5pm on Tuesday  October 31st.

How come?

This followed representations from D4B supporters pointing out that responses on the first two weeks of the consultation had been restricted.

The original period of consultation of eight weeks had been proposed and approved by Rother’s own Community Governance Review Steering Group but it was then cut by Full Council to six weeks.  A meeting at the town forum last week unanimously voted to ask for the extension, on the grounds of fair play.

So there is some more time to reach people to tell them about the chance for a town council –  and for them to vote!

 

 

What could a town council actually do?

People have got fired up by the positive opportunities which a town council can offer!  But what are they? Some people have asked us for more examples of what town councils can do.

Well Dunstable provides social activities for people of all ages, including lunch clubs for the over 55’s and over 75’s, National Play Day for children, youth drop in sessions for teenagers and Dunstable Men in Sheds for men 55 plus.  It has partnered with a young people’s counselling service to deliver sessions in schools identifying what causes stress. Totton and Eling, Hampshire, instituted a shopping voucher scheme to encourage residents to shop locally. Falmouth developed an economic plan including saving CCTV and youth services, and employs a team of gardeners who in conjunction with visitor and education office involve primary school children in horticulture projects.

Sprowston has taken over a youth and community building from Norfolk County Council, held a health fair and run a weight management class which has developed into an exercise class. Wikham has planted 800 new trees, commissioning two new floodlit tennis courts and a new club, a floodlit all weather football pitch and a new village green.  Many town councils have taken over parks and allotments and public spaces: Skegness has a groundcare team, manages and maintains benches, bus shelters, notice boards, planters, hanging baskets, litter bins and an information lectern in the town. The groundcare team also manages the council’s cemetery, burial ground, war memorial and allotments.

Sevenoaks run a cinema and theatre complex ! Antsey has provided new football pitches for the local youth teams, built a community footpath with a neighbouring parish council and funded a feasibility study on a late night bus service. Stirchley and Brookside runs a gardening scheme which manages gardens for elderly people who can’t. Burnham Overy, Norfolk is a local partner in the development of six homes, five of which are classified as affordable.

Salisbury took on a mix of services, some of which cost money to run and others which generate an income. These include 33 parks, 12 play areas, a community centre, two pay and display car parks, the Guildhall and various shops, offices and flats. Thame in Oxfordshire supports local businesses with a range of measures. This includes providing 50% funding for a market town coordinator, chairing and supporting a business forum, supporting a charter market manning an information centre, providing sponsorship opportunities for local businesses and operating a buy it local policy.

Waltham Abbey have played host to a number of national and international events, including a night stopover of the Monte Carlo rally, the Olympic Torch relay, the Olympic Games and the Tour De France!

 What would people in Bexhill like to see? It would of course be up to the councillors (elected in Bexhill by the people of Bexhill) to find out what is most needed in the town. Our D4B leaflet mentions some things we think would be popular, some big and some small, but we know that Bexhill residents are not short of ideas and suggestions for services which they would want to be effective and good value, not wasting money and not ignoring what the town really wants. 

Parish and Town Councils are the most unbureaucratic and the cheapest kind of local authority in existence.  Their funds will be the smallest part of the Council Tax and they get no general government grant, so they have every incentive to keep expenditure low and be economical. The accounts are strictly and independently audited every year.

Can we trust councillors?

All councillors have to abide by a Code of Conduct which sets out which interests have to be declared. The one used by Rye Town council (Yes, they have a town council although their population is only 5,000 compared to Bexhill’s 41,000!) is here.

Councillors also have to enter relevant financial and other interests in a special Register that is open to inspection by members of the public.  The Department of Communities and Local Government provide a guide

 

 

Struggle to find website link

From: Barbara Atkinson, Ninfield Road, Bexhill-on-Sea

In common with Terry Byrne (Bexhill Observer, September 8) I too struggled to find the link on the Rother website to cast my very important vote. I think that the council do not want us to vote because they are afraid that we will all give the wrong response, so they are making the process as difficult as possible. The link you need to access in order to cast your vote is: https://surveymechanics.com/s/BexCGR  (or www.bexhilltowncouncil.com)

The form is very easy to fill in and took me about two minutes altogether, after spending more than 15 minutes to find it!

From Bexhill Observer, 15 September.

Seismic review of democracy

From: Sam Coleman, Cooper Drive, Bexhill

Any reader of this newspaper will be well aware that Bexhill is currently undergoing possibly its most seismic democratic review since the decision to abolish Bexhill Borough Council back in the 1970s. The ‘Community Governance Review’, which is currently in phase 2, could result in a seismic shift of the town’s governance. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the relentlessly passionate campaigning of Democracy4Bexhill and other local group , the most likely of these shifts could well be the formation of a Bexhill Town Council.

If the governance reviews of other towns were anything to go by, the momentum from these action groups would be more than enough to see Bexhill adopt a town council. However, Rother District Council’s handling of the Community Governance Review and the off-the- record reluctance of many District Councillors have made this an uphill climb for town council campaigners. Nonetheless, the momentum seems to be picking up steam as the various organisations up their campaigning efforts to counter the seemingly pitiful attempts made by Rother to publicise the review.

One possible redeeming factor for the campaigners is that, due to phase 2 being a ‘consultation’ rather than a legally binding vote, there is no lower age limit on who can vote. This means that campaigners have a real opportunity to enthral young Bexhill residents with the same passion for change that saw an unexpectedly high turnout in the last general election. Young people are the future and so it isn’t hard to see how retaining a district council famously stuck in the past is a far less attractive prospect than a town council that could actually do something about young peoples issues without having to go through numerous rural Rother councillors with little interest in the matter.

As a young person myself, I have watched recreation centres close and sports facilities dilapidate under the watch of Rother District Council and until recently I thought there was no hope for Bexhill’s youth. A town council, however, could change things.

From the campaign to save Sidley Sports Ground to the fight to fix Bexhill Skate Park, a Bexhill Town Council could help solve these pressing issues and be a revolutionary step into Bexhill’s bright future. I hope that my peers and fellow young residents take this opportunity to give the town better prospects and vote for Option 2, a Bexhill Town Council.

Bexhill Observer, 15 September.

Fight in historic Bexhill battle

From: Jackie Bialeska, Cantelupe Road, Bexhill

Residents take note: a “consultation” is underway at the moment which will decide whether you want your own town council/area committee or not.

Battle has a town council and Rye too. Why not Bexhill? Voting cards can only be collected from the town hall but this, or course, creates big problems for some residents – people who are working during town hall opening times, people who can’t walk far and busy mothers. Many people don’t even know about it at all. However, do whatever you can to get down to the town hall opposite Sainsbury’s. This is an historic moment. You are being asked to fight. The chance will not come again.

Good luck Bexhill. You have fought before and won. Do it again.

From the Bexhill Observer, 8th September.

Cautionary tale of mayoral vote

From: Dave Walsh, Rotherfield Avenue, Bexhill

The Community Governance Review seems to have generated a fair amount of heat around many issues, especially a lack of explanatory literature, as the Bexhill Observer letters page suggests (The audacity of our council never fails to amaze me, Michael Crotty, 25/8/17). The Rother deputy leader has apparently made it clear that only an “overwhelming response” would result in any change – difficult to achieve without full information perhaps. Twenty years ago I didn’t expect that much in East Sussex having come from a more urban part of Great Britain, but the deferential Fiefdom I found was a real shock.

I fear that the standards gap has now very much narrowed between town and country so I can’t be smug anymore, but here is a cautionary tale all the same. I hope it helps and advises. The issue is different but the concerns are the same.

A few years ago, in my home town, one councillor forced a referendum through under the new Government legislation by garnering enough signatures. The issue in question was whether to introduce a change to the mayoral nomination system which would mean that candidates would no longer need to be affiliated to a political party. This was a relatively long time ago so there were the usual three PLPs, as front runners, in place. The Tory, Labour and Liberal leaders, were all male, looking pretty much the same, white, stocky-no hair and they had previously agreed that a democratic debate would be a good thing.

When an actual vote appeared over the horizon however, things changed. They were then thrown into a very obvious panic as their power base was actually being challenged. The immediate ensuing relief, when the vote for change was lost in the end, was palpable. The leader of the council, far from showing any magnanimity in victory, then used the local press to declare that the low turn-out (18 per cent) proved that the electorate had never shown any interest in a different system all along. You could detect the arrogance in the very printed word itself.

I then immediately wrote in to point out that, in fact, the number of people voting had been above the average for a Local Government Election and that, actually, over 40 per cent of the electorate HAD voted for change and they very nearly won the day! You may think that this sorry tale was bad enough yet the council then surcharged their OWN member for the eye-watering amount of money (£120k). This apparently represented the expenses incurred by holding a legal referendum, initiated democratically by an elected representative. The amount of money wasted in other directions could be another bed time story.

There is, of course, no direct comparison to be drawn here between the current Bexhill and Rother initiative. The financial demand made then quietly disappeared (along with the councillor) but as the early Duty Sergeant used to say in NYPD Blue, “Be careful out there!”

From the Bexhill Observer, 8th September.

Many unable to get a postcard

From the Residents of Marina Court, Marina, Bexhill

It is amazing to think how long ago it was that the people of Bexhill banded together to draw attention to the fact that Bexhill had no town council and its personality and progress appeared to be of no importance to Rother District Council. Twenty years on and we still haven’t got a voice or a town council.

There are many disabled and partially-disabled people living in Bexhill. Not only do they have to walk on dangerous pavements with holes in the road, cope with limited parking but are even unable to get to the town hall if requested by Rother. Also why are many suggestions firmly rejected with the usual excuses? Morally – like Rye, Eastbourne, Hastings – all communities need their own town council to progress and respect the needs of its population. Trust us and you will see!

Why should people with walkers, sticks, wheelchairs and the many retired people who live here and haven’t got transport, be expected to somehow get to the town hall and collect a postcard to vote? There are many who are unable to make it down there. Come on! Bexhill deserves its own town council.

From the Bexhill Observer, 8th September