Two-way dialogue is still needed

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The current chairman and vice chairman of the Bexhill Town Forum, Alan Peirce and Theresa Stanbridge, have undoubtedly made some improvements to the presentational aspects of the forum. This is to be applauded.

However, they have lost one vital element: a genuine two-way dialogue where residents of Bexhill could raise their genuine concerns in public.

Instead, we have carefully selected public relations presentations, enabling some residents’ questions on topics selected by the forum leadership. This has the feel of the verbal equivalent of a corporate house magazine.

The current chairman and vice chairman of the forum are enabling Rother District Council, East Sussex County Council and private providers of services to the public realm (property developers, the owner of a pub chain) to present their messages in a similar way.

It’s little surprise that the new format is popular amongst elected councillors from the ruling group and senior council officers as it removes the critical scrutiny that the Bexhill Town Forum used to provide.

My five-minute presentation on street lighting in March, 2013, highlighted a fear experienced by many women, particularly shift workers, of travelling home or travelling to work in the dark on unlit streets.

Months of discussion in your pages followed.

There were a few resulting improvements, but the situation continues to be sadly inadequate. However, the concerns were able to be aired.

Jackie Bialeska’s three-minute presentation in September, 2014, on the county council’s consultation on cuts to the bus timetable initiated weeks of concerned letters and articles in your pages.

Encouraged by a political party, many Bexhill residents completed the consultation document, wrote to East Sussex or signed a petition.

As a result, the proposed cut to the bus service from central Bexhill to the Conquest Hospital was partly overturned: the service continues to be scheduled on an hourly basis on weekdays.

Neither of the above presentations could be triggered under the present format. Sadly, the current forum leadership conclude that there are only two ways forward: the past format or the present.

I would suggest a third way. Future meetings could be split between the present format of highly informative presentations followed by questions and the opportunity for members of the forum (residents of Bexhill) to continue to have the opportunity to raise any issue they feel concerned about in the form of a short presentation, thereby bringing this issue to the attention of the meeting and the wider public.

Paul Courtel

Immediate past acting chairman

Bexhill Town Forum

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