BEXHILL’S five independent councillors serving on Rother District Council say their faith in the local electorate has been fully justified.
Together with supporters and intending district election candidates they launched a petition on the town hall steps last September.
Their aim was to gather 3,500 signatures to force the local authority to conduct a statutory Community Governance Review.
The Independents want Bexhill to have its own Area Committee.
They argue that half of Rother’s 80,000 population lives in Bexhill - yet under Rother’s system the leader alone decides the size and membership of the cabinet. This currently comprises nine Conservative members of whom only three represent Bexhill wards.
Battle and Rye, on the other hand, each have town councils and 29 parish councils serve the rural area.
A Bexhill Area Committee could undertake tasks such as executive decisions on solely Bexhill matters and related budgets, formal consultee status on planning, and policy development for Bexhill.
The Independents’ proposal for an Area Committee was rejected by both cabinet and full council.
On Monday, the Independents gathered again on the town hall steps, this time to present a 3,816 signature petition to Tony Leonard, Rother’s Head of Services.
On behalf of his Association of Independent Councillors colleagues, Cllr Stuart Earl said: “I am thrilled to bits that the people of Bexhill have got behind this. Submission of this petition means that Rother has now got to do a Governance Review.”
Following the presentation Rother Conservatives responded: “Cllr Carl Maynard has welcomed the petition and added that the Rother Conservatives had already promised a governance review to take place after the local elections in May.
“Rother’s Conservative administration has traditionally resisted any calls for a change in governance in Bexhill as they have always maintained that any changes would lead to significantly increased council tax bills for residents without any benefits for Bexhill’s taxpayers.
“The introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy – a tax levied on most new homes built which is due to be introduced later this year - sees a proportion of tax collected allocated to parish councils where the new homes are built. This is the reason why Conservatives are keen that the issue of governance is debated once again by politicians and residents alike.
“Rother’s Conservatives are clear that there are two sensible options – the status quo or splitting Bexhill into a number of parishes; it is clear that within Bexhill there are distinctive local communities that see themselves as distinct areas. Residents of Sidley and Little Common have very different local needs and aspirations for example. The same would be true of Pebsham and Kewhurst etc.
“Should there be change this is the favoured option of Rother’s Conservatives.”