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

Use review as an opportunity

From: Paul Lendon, Buxton Drive, Bexhill

In reference to Mr Webb’s recent letter, “Urge councillors to spread word”. He makes some interesting points regarding our existing councillors. Yes, I would particularly like to see our 18 Rother District Bexhill councillors be more accountable.

For example, many people I find do not know who their local councillors are. Regarding Governance for Bexhill, why now take this opportunity to discover who your local councillors are and ask which option they will support? Perhaps the results could be published in the Observer?

Finally, people of Bexhill, don’t miss this opportunity!

From Bexhill Observer, 8th September

Voting in review was big struggle

From Terry Byrne, Manor Road, Bexhill

So Rother District Council really want to know if we want a town council. Or do they? On Friday morning I eagerly clicked on the RDC home page and looked for the big obvious ‘Have Your Say’ or ‘click here to choose’ boxes. But guess what, they weren’t there.

What there was, was a picture of a keyboard with the headline ‘have you been affected by the business rates re-valuation?’. Then after a wait of ten seconds, the picture changed to a picture of a survey form and the words ‘Your Vote Matters”. Okay, I thought, this must be it, but no. Clicking on this picture took me to a page about the importance of the electoral register. So back to the front page and wait for the picture to change again. Next up was a picture showing a form with tick boxes and headed ‘Proposed changes to Rother’s validation list for public consultation’. Well I wasn’t too sure what a validation list was but the public consultation bit looked good to me so I clicked.

Wrong again , this time I was taken to a page about planning. By now I was losing the will to live but I thought I should give it one more try. Bingo! The next picture showed a rowdy public meeting and had the headline ‘Community Governance Review for Bexhill’, so I clicked. This time I was taken to a page headed ‘Community Governance Review Bexhill’. Great! I thought, where do I click on the option for a town council. By now I suppose I should have known that the answer would be ‘not here’. The page, all in small print, listed the four governance options and if you clicked on an option you were taken to another page explaining the implications of your choice, not that you had been able to make a choice so far. However the information was pretty comprehensive and useful if you knew little about Bexhill and hadn’t already formed an opinion.

Anyway, at last here it was, four lines from the bottom of the page, a link that you could click that took you to the voting page. Which, by the way, was obviously not written by RDC as it was clear, easy to use and in decent sized print. So, just how much do they want to hear from us? As the late Paul Daniels would have said ‘not a lot’. Having struggled my way through this process it seems clear to me that if you want a representative body that actively seeks your views, values your opinions and makes communication as easy as possible, then a town council is definitely the way to go.

From the Bexhill Observer, September 8th

Can opposition be explained?

From: Peter Webb, Glenleigh Park Road, Bexhill

The Rother District Governance Review started today (Friday, September 1) and continues for six weeks until Friday, October 13, 2017. At the time of writing the council’s review website is still under construction and it is to be hoped that it will be operational very shortly.

I think it’s fair to say that the Rother District Council Conservative group as a whole seems to be less than keen on the idea of a town council for Bexhill. I do hope that one or two of them might feel able to publicly explain their opposition over the coming weeks.

To kick things off, it would be helpful to hear some justification for their opposition, given that Bexhill is the only community in Rother not to have its own parish council, despite having more than half of Rother’s population at around 45,000. Not only that, I understand that Bexhill is one of only four towns in the whole country that does not have its own town council. Rother has some of the smallest parish communities in the country (eg, Dallington, pop. 310) while the largest town with its own council is Weston-Super-Mare (pop. 70,000). What do these communities have that Bexhill does not have?

Published on 8th 2017

From Bexhill Observer