LETTER: Meetings should be held in public

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I haven’t noticed much ‘buzz’ around the town or in your columns concerning the forthcoming Community Governance Review (CGR) to examine whether there should be a Bexhill town council or similar body to correct the situation in Rother whereby every town or village in the District has a council except Bexhill.

This is somewhat surprising as nearly 4,000 Bexhillians came together to sign the petition that triggered this review. I wonder if it’s because they imagine they’ve done the job now and that an independent, impartial and transparent process will now unravel where independent inspectors will clearly observe the ‘democratic deficit’ of Bexhill in Rother and grant them their wishes.

Perhaps they don’t understand that it is Rother District Council itself that controls the process and, rather than appoint politically neutral people, for example its own officers, to carry out the review, it has appointed a ‘Steering Group’ of councillors whose membership has been decided on a party political basis: six Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat, one Independent and Cllr Charles Clark.

Now you may or may not recall that three years ago the council appointed what was called a ‘Devolution Working Group (DWG)’ of an almost identical composition which, despite the many proposals of the late Councillor John Lee, voted along party lines to reject a town council or area committee for Bexhill - and even to abolish the Bexhill Town Forum.

Then, at full council, every single Conservative councillor voted to accept the DWG’s conclusions (except that for the forum).

Can we then really expect the CGR Steering Group to adopt a fresh, impartial approach? Surely most of the councillors are predetermined against any form of local governance for Bexhill?

However, I thought the previous group had held its meetings in secret and perhaps, if the CGR process were to be transparent and the public allowed access to its deliberations, this might make a difference and members would not act so politically.

But on September 26 when I attended a meeting of Full Council, any illusions I had about the possibility of transparency for the CGR were completely crushed as, following a modest proposal by Councillor Oliver to allow the public access to CGR meetings I watched in almost disbelief as each of 28 Conservative councillors in turn uttered the single word ‘against’.

Why does the council insist on making the Community Governance Review political?

Why is it so afraid of allowing the public access to its meetings?

Nick Hollington

Whydown Road

Bexhill

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