Review to be conducted “at no additional cost to this Council.”
Supporters of the D4B (Democracy for Bexhill) campaign group and other members of the public crowded into the Council Chamber on Monday 10 July to listen to the Rother District Council debate on the Community Governance Review.
The debate centred around a recommendation from Rother’s cabinet that a fourth option: to split Bexhill into four parishes based on the County Council divisions be included in the next stage of the public consultation. This was in addition to the three options put forward by the Community Governance Review steering group of: a town council for Bexhill, a Bexhill area committee of Rother and a ‘no change’ option.
Councillor Sue Prochak (Lib Dem, Salehurst) moved that the four parish option be removed from the stage 2 Consultation as the proposed parish boundaries did not reflect natural communities. Her amendment was overwhelmingly defeated with every Conservative present voting against.
However, Councillor Martin Kenward (Con, Bexhill Kewhurst) took everyone by surprise when he proposed an amendment to send the whole issue back to the steering group for them to agree the exact nature of the second stage and that the consultation be carried out “at no additional cost to the council”. Councillor Prochak (Liberal Democrat – Salehurst) asked for clarification on the question of cost and Councillor Kenward confirmed that “the consultation should be at no additional cost to this council”.
Councillor Doug Oliver (Independent, Bexhill Collington) moved a further amendment that a communication be sent to every household in Bexhill, charged to Bexhill Special Expenses. In support, Councillor Kathryn Field (Lib Dem, Battle) argued that Rother needed to “make sure it is easy to respond.” The amendment was aimed at placating Councillor Paul Osborne (Con, Eastern Rother) and other Conservative Councillors who did not want the countryside to pay for a leaflet drop in Bexhill. However, every Conservative Councillor present voted against Councillor Oliver’s amendment that was overwhelmingly defeated.
Cllr Carl Maynard (Con, Brede Valley), the Leader of the Council summed up the debate by saying that: “Now was not the right time for change” He went on to say the money spent on the review could be spent on council services for the whole of Rother.
To add further confusion, the final motion read out by the Chairman of Rother District Council and voted on by the Full Council included the four options and a reference back to the Steering Group to address communication plan, but did not include the words “at no additional cost to the Council.”
The Vice Chair of D4B Christine Bayliss – [who recently fought the General Election campaign on a pledge to support the introduction of the Town Council for Bexhill] said “This whole process has turned into a shambles. This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the review, keep it under wraps and suppress the number of responses to stage 2”.
Julia Penfold and Steve Samuelson added: “We were on the public seats and feel that Rother is not giving the Bexhill people the full support they deserve in the consultation process”.
Paul Courtel, an active member of D4B, commented: ”I think the real motive of the Rother Conservative Group in voting against sending an explanatory leaflet and a response card to every household, as sensibly recommended by the Steering Group, is to minimise the response from Bexhill residents. This would help the ruling group to conclude, at the end of the review, that there’s no appetite for change.”
Commenting on the meeting, Councillor Doug Oliver stated: “The decision seems bizarre, is likely to cause confusion and lead to delay.”
Dr Barry Snape, who was on the visitors’ seats, added a quote attributed to the eighteenth century statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.
If you want to know more or you want to get involved with the Democracy4Bexhill campaign, you can visit their Facebook page “Democracy4Bexhill” or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07917 845 737.
Further information: Brian Cope 01424 732 895