Bid to establish town council for Bexhill backed

Supporters of a Bexhill Town Council pictured in December 2017
Supporters of a Bexhill Town Council pictured in December 2017

Rother councillors have called for work to begin on establishing a town council for Bexhill by 2021.

On Wednesday (May 23), Rother District Council met for the first time since its takeover by the newly-formed Rother Alliance after the local elections earlier this month.

A coalition of the council’s Independent, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green groups, the Rother Alliance elected Cllr Doug Oliver as council leader during the meeting.

Following his election, in which he stood unopposed, Cllr Oliver put forward a motion calling on council officers to begin the work needed to get a Bexhill Town Council up and running by 2021.

He said: “It was a promise of the Independent candidates within Bexhill going into the recent election that they support the creation of a town council for Bexhill-on-Sea following the Community Governance Review.

“It gives me much pleasure to move this motion to council on behalf of the residents who supported those candidates in the recent election.”

The motion was broadly supported by other groups within the alliance and was seconded by Labour councillor Christine Bayliss.

However, some concerns were raised by the Conservative group over what process the creation of a town council would take.

Cllr Sally Ann Hart, a member of the previous council’s Conservative cabinet, asked if another Community Governance Review would be required to bring  the plans forward.

In response, the council’s newly elected chairman Cllr Terry Byrne said he had been advised another review would be a necessary part of the process.

The last review had taken several years to get off the ground, with the work beginning following a petition from residents in March 2015.

While it was severely delayed due to a Sussex-wide review of electoral boundaries during 2016, the first stage of the process only formally began in January 2017.

The recommendations from this first stage – including the formation of a town council – were sent out to public consultation in September 2017, with a final decision coming in December the same year.

However Cllr Oliver said the process would not have to run the same way as there was ‘a predetermined outcome’.

He  said: “I’m led to believe that if there is a further Community Governance Review, it will be of a different format from what we have seen before.

“I think part of the procedure is we do have to go through that, but where there is a predetermined outcome I think it is a shortened version.”

Conservatives raised further concerns about the plans, however with Cllr Elenor Kirby-Green, another former cabinet member, asking if the next review would involve a referendum of some sort.

Cllr Paul Osborne, meanwhile, asked what date was being considered for any town council elections, suggesting it would make sense to hold them alongside the next East Sussex County Council elections in 2021.

These arguments caused some frustration among other parties, however.

Cllr Kathryn Field (Lib Dem – Battle) said: “I believe this debate is getting very bogged down in process and detail, about which we know nothing yet.

“What this [motion] is hoping to do is enable officers to tell us what that process will be.”

The motion was eventually passed with no votes against, although the Conservative group abstained from voting.

It had been amended during the meeting, rewording it to make clear the 2021 deadline was for the town council being established and not the report being written.

With the amendment, the motion read: “In the light of the outcome of the local election results and the overwhelming support for candidates that support a Town Council for Bexhill-on-Sea this council requests officers to report as to the required procedure with a view to the establishment, by 2021, of a Bexhill Town Council.”