Becoming a councillor

What matters to you ? Is it keeping Bexhill communities vibrant, lovely and peaceful? Is it sorting out the pavements, good afterschool care, the right environment for local businesses, encouraging new ideas for the town, or just getting value for money for good services that provide help where it is needed?

If you are reading this newsletter having your voice heard is probably important to you, and you may also support having a Town Council. In May 2019 there will be a chance to change things for the better when Rother District Council will be up for election, including the 18 councillors who represent Bexhill wards.

D4B agrees that this is a real opportunity for us all to elect new people who want to make a difference and listen to local residents. If we can get enough people who support a

Town Council elected, we can bring direct democracy back to Bexhill. Created in 1902, lost in 1974. Could it be you? Being a councillor can be very rewarding, and gives you a chance to make a huge difference to the quality of life for people in your local area. D4B has decided to organise training sessions for people who might consider standing as a councillor. Let us know if you are interested.

Democracy4Bexhill is not affiliated to any political party. We just want to support candidates who will serve the town, make a good job of it and vote for a Town Council, irrespective of which party they support. If you are interested in standing you could stand as an independent or with one of the major political parties. Here are local contact details:

Association of Bexhill Independents – Doug Oliver. dougoliver@hotmail.uk 07917 845737

Green Party – John and Polly. mrspollygray@gmail.com 01424 732 645

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

Labour Party – Conor Hill conordavidhill@gmail.com 07787 157774

Conservative Party – Tom Liddiard  office@bbca.uk.com  01424  21911

 

Upcoming elections

2019

Rother District Council (RDC)

Responsible for Housing, Environmental Health,

Tourism, Planning, Street Cleaning, Waste

Collection and more…

Councillors’ basic allowance: £4,517.64 (17/18)

 

2021

East Sussex County Council (ESCC)

Responsible for Schools and Education,

Children’s Services, Social Services, Highways,

Library, Leisure, Planning and more…

Councillors’ basic allowance: £12,300 (17/19)

 

??

Bexhill Town Council

When created, it will be responsible for whatever

services are devolved to it from RDC and ESCC

plus the services the electorate vote for.

Councillors’ basic allowance: None.

 

Got any concerns or issues? Any questions for us?

Email us at: D4Bvoice@gmail.com

 

12-18? 19-25? You could become a Youth Councillor! Visit BexhillYouthCouncil.co.uk for more info.

Case study – what a town council can do

Town councils are small, and they have a lot of freedom to create services that local people want, so they can focus on what is needed and what locals really care about, plus “nice-to-haves” which will make a difference to the town.

There are town councils up and down the country serving their towns, giving them a facelift, providing a tourist office, giving jobs advice to young people, hiring out e-bikes, improving street lighting or bus shelters, providing information for tenants and leaseholders, setting up children’s playcentres, even creating a cinema or organising ballroom dancing,

Some invite residents to vote on where money should go. Many replace services that have been cut, such as public toilets or grants for local events or sports clubs.

Health and loneliness

One of the areas that interests us is tackling loneliness. Even in Bexhill – such a friendly place – there are many people who feel totally on their own. The UK has designated social isolation an official “health priority” and there is even a Minister for Loneliness! This is because loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking, drinking or obesity.

There is now proof that when you have friends and support, you are less likely to go to hospital. In Frome in Somerset, the number of emergency admissions to hospital has fallen by 17% since the Compassionate Frome project was set up. As a consultant there remarked, “No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.” So we save not just lives but also money. The scheme is backed by Frome town council.

There is a lot going on in Bexhill already to help with loneliness, but how do people find out where to go? That is still the challenge and a town council might decide to make loneliness their priority, supporting what is already happening and making it easier for the public to get involved. A town council would have local knowledge and should be flexible enough to respond to local needs. A town council would aim to make a difference to the daily lives of Bexhill residents.

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.

 

 

 

 

What goes on at council meetings?

It is really interesting to find out. Many of the council meetings at the Town Hall are open to the public. At some of them you can even ask a question if you give notice, under a system Rother call “Public question time”.

Rother is governed by a ‘Cabinet’ system, which means that many decisions are planned by the Council Leader and a small group of councillors, with those decisions often ‘nodded through’ at Full Council. The Cabinet, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Full Council meetings are all held on Mondays. Details and documents about all meetings can be found under the ABOUT THE COUNCIL tab at the top of the website (www.rother.gov.uk).

Remember you can always write to your Rother councillor if you have a concern.

Some of them do a great job, but let us know if they don’t reply.

 

 

Would you vote for them again?

 

What do you call a district council which has been in power for too long, and which denies the people of Bexhill a town council? Call time on it, perhaps….?

Here are the Bexhill councillors who voted AGAINST creating a Town Council for their town:

Central Ward – Joy Hughes and Abul Azad |

Kewhurst Ward – Brian Kentfield and Martin Kenward

Old Town Ward – Jacky Potts and Gillian Johnson |

Sidley Ward – Jimmy Carroll

St Stephens Ward – Richard Carroll |

Sackville Ward – Ian Hollidge

ABSTENTIONS – Maurice Watson, Sidley Ward | ABSENCES 3

 

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

 

 

What options are Rother offering?

Option 1 – No change

All decisions about services provided in Bexhill would continue to be made by the 38 Rother councillors, the majority of whom are not elected by Bexhill residents and so can always out-vote the Bexhill members. Also, we would continue to pay the Bexhill Special Expenses tax averaging at £40 per household per year without control on how it is spent.

Option 2 – A town council

(technically “A parish council styled as a town council”)
The best option! Because…

  • Decisions would be made by Bexhill residents, for Bexhill residents.
  • Direct control of the Bexhill Special Expenses council tax, and influence on how Rother and East Sussex County Council spend their budgets in Bexhill.
  • A Bexhill town council could protect services at risk! Services such as public toilets, or grants to sports clubs, charities, museums or transport for the elderly are likely to be cut in 2020 when the central government grant to Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council falls to zero.
  • Control of 15% of the Community Infrastructure Levy, which developers pay Rother on infrastructure developments such as the new housing planned for Bexhill. This would rise to 25% if the Town Council develops a Neighbourhood Plan.
  • New powers to provide services were given to communities and town councils in 2011. Towns up and down the country are taking this opportunity to form their own councils. Bexhill, this is your moment!
  • Bexhill would retain its Mayor!
  • Find out more about what a Town Council could do.

Option 3 – An area committee

This would simply involve the current Rother councillors from Bexhill wards meeting together. Rother has made it clear that this would have no powers or responsibilities. Yet Rother also say it would cost an extra £45,000 to £90,000 per year!

Option 4 – Four parish councils

These would cost at least twice as much as a town council to little benefit, divide the town unfairly and create 68 new councillors! Plus Bexhill would lose its mayor.

What could a Bexhill Town Council do?

What could a Bexhill Town Council do?

Rother District Council is holding a consultation called a Community Governance Review, to ask the public if they would like Bexhill to have more local representation, and if so what form it should take.

Everyone of any age living or working in Bexhill is now being asked to express their preference in a consultative ballot, a non-binding “vote”.

Democracy4Bexhill, a non-political group of Bexhill residents, has researched all the options and recommends you vote for a town council.

A town council would focus on the things that residents want to see in Bexhill. This might include looking after allotments, flower beds, public spaces, bus shelters and community centres. They could also run services, award grants, and support initiatives to provide or improve, for example:

  • pavements and drop kerbs
  • tourist information
  • litter control
  • children’s play centres
  • skate parks, cycle paths
  • parking
  • neighbourhood planning
  • advice services for tenants and leaseholders
  • loneliness prevention
  • help for independent shops
  • making the town more attractive with flower baskets and upkeep
  • keeping and promoting Bexhill’s special historic character.