Campaigners who called for Bexhill to have its own town council have branded Rother District Council’s decision not to grant one a ‘farce’.
Democracy4Bexhill (D4B) said it was not giving up the fight, despite last night’s result.
Doug Oliver, chairman of D4B, said: “This was a farce. What is the point of having a consultation that attracts huge numbers in response, then ignoring such overwhelming results when 93 per cent of the vote was for a town council? This shows contempt for Bexhill residents, who have engaged with this consultation with great spirit.”
Christine Bayliss, vice-chairman of D4B, said: “This was a great way to help democracy become more transparent. Thousands of Bexhill residents are committed to this now.
“If Rother is determined to ignore the community, we just have to work through the ballot box as usual, and campaign to elect councillors who do have the interests of the town at heart and understand what a town council can offer. We are very grateful to those councillors who did support us. The work goes on.”
D4B led the rally outside the town hall before people watched the long debate, either in the council chamber or in St John’s Centre where it was streamed live.
Opposition councillors at Rother’s meeting said Bexhill had a right to govern its own affairs.
Cllr Stuart Earl (Association of Independents), said: “My belief has always been that this is not something to take away from Rother but something to add to Rother. A town council could free up funds within Rother to spend on other services.
“The villages and parishes elsewhere in Rother enjoy having a say in their own affairs and all we are asking is for Bexhill to have the same opportunity for self-determination. It can only benefit the whole of Rother.”
Cllr Kevin Dixon (LibDem), said: “Why should Bexhill be the only place in the district not to have a town council? Communities should be represented by their own councils.
“The only option worthy of support is a single town council for Bexhill.”
Cllr Sue Prochak (LibDem) said she could see ‘no other argument’ other than Bexhill to have its own town council.
However council leader Carl Maynard said: “I think we really need to be clear on some of the positives RDC has done in the last decade, working with partner organisations to help Bexhill, such as the level of funding we have put into the CAB, £5.4m into the seafront and £1m that went into Bexhill Museum.”
He and fellow councillors said they were against the creation of another tax raising body, such as a town council.
Cllr Maynard said: “We should be spending money where frontline services are under threat, and frontline services are under threat.”
Fellow Conservative councillor Gillian Johnson said: “We all know how families are struggling to make ends meet so I’m not prepared to add more to their outgoings by introducing another tax raising body. Rother District Council does an excellent job for Bexhill.
“We have a really innovative seafront and an award-winning Egerton Park plus £300,000 funding towards Sidley skatepark. Most importantly we are working towards a new leisure centre for Bexhill.”