Bexhill governance review leaflet will be sent to everyone

Doug Stevenson and Rachel Hills from Democracy4Bexhill at its pop-up shop. Picture by Margaret Garcia
Doug Stevenson and Rachel Hills from Democracy4Bexhill at its pop-up shop. Picture by Margaret Garcia

Rother District Council agreed to send information on Bexhill’s governance review to every household and remove ‘misleading’ information on costs from its website.

Democracy4Bexhill (D4B) previously asked the council to post information so elderly people and those without computer access can have their say on the community governance review.

But the group said the idea was refused by the council on the basis of cost until the steering group decided to include the CGR information when it sends out council tax bills last Wednesday (February 22).

D4B ran a pop-up shop in Western Road for two weeks during February, speaking with more than 1,000 residents, some 800 of whom provided their contact details to D4B to share with the council, or completed a consultation response form.

Group member David Gee said: “Many people I spoke to knew nothing about the review. I also found that many people thought that because the council’s offices are in Bexhill then the town already had a town council.”

Councillor Doug Oliver added: “The number of those spoken to who did not know of the consultation, were confused about the way Bexhill is currently governed, or did not have a computer and so could not look at the council website for information on the review, clearly shows that the council needs to make far greater efforts to reach people. I’m very pleased they will send out information with council tax bills.”

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “The option of sending information about the Community Governance Review to every household is something which has always been kept under review.

“A decision to do this was confirmed at the last steering group meeting on February 22. We could only send out this information with council tax bills once the rate of council tax had been set and this only happened at Monday’s (February 27) full council meeting.”

The CGR steering group also decided to take down all the references to costs after concerns were raised about it confusing residents at the meeting.

Labour Party campaigner Paul Courtel argued the information could be seen as biased against a town council, one of the many options to be considered.

“I considered the information factually accurate but misleading,” he said.

Steering group members Cllrs Doug Oliver and Sue Prochak agreed and proposed the information was removed.

“I think there’s a lot of numbers being banded around so lets rip them out, lets forget about them for the time being because they are only going to muddy the waters and therefor perhaps our website is not assisting us,” Cllr Oliver said.

Cllr Lord Ampthill initially argued the information should be kept on the website as it is already in the public domain and removing it would be pointless.

Rother District Council executive director of resources Malcolm Johnston defended the information, which the steering group agreed to in November.

“The questions were developed in the spirit of trying to be helpful and giving people some information but I think sometimes the danger is some information extends even further and then it becomes a snowball,” he said.

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