LETTER: Why have public been excluded?

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I feel I must add my support to the comments and concern expressed by Nick Hollington (Bexhill Observer: 30 September 2016) following the decision by the Full Council meeting of Rother District Council, to exclude the public from meetings of the Community Governance Review (CGR) Steering Group, that has been established to consider whether the area of Bexhill should have the benefit of a town council or similar body.

The exclusion of the public to meetings of the steering group appears to me to go against the long standing approach to local governance embodied at least since the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960, embedded through Section 100 of the Local Government Act 1972 and enhanced through the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985.

Through all this legislation the requirement that (with only minor exceptions that do not apply to this Governance Review) all local authority meetings, including committee and sub committee meetings shall be open to the public.

This steering group is effectively a committee or sub committee of the council. While an independent chairman is to be appointed, the chairman will have no voting rights. The published minutes of the Full Council for 26 September 2016 states: “....The leader of the council advised members that due to the limited staffing resources to support the CGR, members appointed to this steering group would need to play an active role and manage the process. In order to assist with impartiality, the leader further recommended that the steering group be chaired by an independent (non-councillor) chairman, with no voting rights......”

The minutes demonstrate unequivocally, in my view, that this is a decision making body, evidenced also through the chairman having no voting rights. The proceedings of the steering group are therefore subject to the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 and also the more recent Openness of Local Authority Bodies Regulations 2014.

I urge all residents of Rother District to write to the leader of the council Cllr. Maynard and also to Malcolm Johnston - executive director of resources - asking what reasons are given for excluding the public to meetings of the CGR Steering Group?

Simon Read

Woodville Road

Bexhill

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