Send questions to : secretary@democracy4Bexhill.com. Here are some already received
Would there be many staff employed by the Town Council?
There would be a town clerk, and beyond that it depends on what the Town Council decides to do. Some Town Councils have 25 staff, some have three!
Could a town council help with getting more doctors, or more housing, for Bexhill?
Possibly. It is hard to get to see a doctor in Bexhill – and hard to find somewhere affordable to live. It would not normally be possible for a Town Council to change this as it has a small budget, but a lot can be achieved by an enthusiastic council working closely and with determination with other bodies. Some town or parish councils are hammering out solutions by accessing external funds, bringing different authorities together, and making things happen.
Why can’t you say for definite what a town council will do?
Because it isn’t our decision. It will be up to the people you elect as town councillors. You can choose who you want to support – they will have been elected on what they have said are their priorities and plans. Once Bexhill Town Council is elected, it will adopt a programme reflecting what you have voted for! Before that, Rother will set up a “Shadow Town Council” to lay the foundations, find premises, set a precept and arrange the elections.
Who would the Town Councillors be?
They would be people of any age who live or work in Bexhill, and who are prepared to give up some time to contribute to the Council. They would not be paid. Town Councils are small organizations, so the work is not as onerous as being a councillor for the District or County. We need people with vision, prepared to work hard and listen long, sort out problems and think of inexpensive solutions. Good people with a sense of humour, and ability to work as a team.
Could I stand as a town councillor?
Consider it! You need enthusiasm, an eye for detail and time – to listen to people’s concerns, read documents, go to meetings and work with others. Councillors are elected to the local council to represent their own local community, so they must either live or work in the area. The role offers the chance to make a huge difference to the quality of life for people in your local area. Being an effective councillor requires both commitment and hard work. Responsibilities include: representing the ward for which you are elected, decision-making – developing and reviewing council policy and scrutinising decisions taken by Rother or East Sussex to see how they affect the residents of Bexhill. Ten people living in the ward where you want to stand have to sign your nomination papers. The election for the Town Council if it goes ahead, will take place in 2021, so you have time to do some training and visit other towns through D4B, and do some preparation.
What’s the bill?
The cost of a town council depends on what the councillors decide to provide, and what they have been elected to do. But the initial costs of setting up a town council with a town clerk and two staff is estimated by Rother to cost £7.50 a year, which is 60p a month for residents in Band D. Many Bexhillians are in Band A or have special reductions, and for them it would be much less.
If residents want more services, this would cost more. The average precept (tax) is £57 a year, and the precept is not capped. But bear in mind that:
- We already pay! For years and years we have paid Rother about £40 for Bexhill services, through the Special Expenses Fund, although without the power to decide how that money was spent. If the town council, in discussion with Rother, decided to take those services over, they would not cost the taxpayer any more than they do now, and possibly less.
- A town council would have the resources and authority to access new funding, including 15% of the infrastructure funds paid by the developers building housing in the town. This rises to 25% if the town develops a Neighbourhood Plan. The town council could also apply for outside trusts and foundations which are designed to support local governance and different projects: most town councils raise and invest money in this way.
- In a town council you know that every penny will be spent in the town. Because Bexhill has a large population of 44,000 people to share the cost, there will be economies of scale which no other town in Rother enjoys.
- Parish and Town Councils are the most unbureaucratic and the cheapest kind of local authority. Their funds form the smallest part of the Council Tax and they get no central government grant, so a Bexhill Town Council would have every incentive to keep expenditure low and be economical. The accounts have to be strictly and independently audited every year.
- The Town council itself will be run on a shoestring – we envisage 18 councillors on the town council – all of them unpaid. The town hall will be a modest building: some premises could be available within Rother’s town hall. The precept – the amount of council tax it costs – will be negotiated with Rother, making savings where possible where services are transferred.
- Up and down the country, town councillors are finding ingenious ways to finance their activities. Bexhill residents are mostly not affluent and the town councillors would be very aware of the need to use money wisely and not introduce a service that is not needed. Nobody wants bigger bills.
- Lastly, we can work hand in hand with the new Rother. This will make sure we all get value for money and save money, because we can work together for the good of the town.
Would a town council take over what Rother or East Sussex do now?
Rother and East Sussex would continue to provide the services they do now, some of which they are legally obliged to do. Rother’s key duties cover street cleaning, bins, housing, planning, food and workplace safety, licences, permits and business regeneration. Some of these are legal duties, so for example a town council cannot make decisions on planning, it can only influence them. East Sussex has legal obligations covering social services including children’s welfare, education, roads, waste disposal, countrywide planning and the environment.
What is interesting however is that:
- Some of the services run by Rother could be handed over to a town council after negotiation. Typically these could include the care of parks, allotments, or public toilets, or grants for Bexhill charities.
- The town council is entitled to set up new services where is a gap, even in areas where the District or County normally run – for example in youth provision, or a housing advice service. Some towns pioneer new ideas suggested by their residents.
A Town Council can do anything its residents support, as long as it is legal!