Town council for Bexhill ‘could be launched on tide of good will and voluntary action’
Bexhill has moved one step closer to getting a town council, after proposals gained the formal backing of Rother council leaders.
On Monday (September 7), Rother District Council cabinet members agreed to a series of proposals tied to the creation of town council for Bexhill with its first elections to take place in May 2021.
The recommendation follows a public consultation as part of a Community Governance Review (CGR) process – the second to take place in the district since 2017.
Cllr Christine Bayliss (Lab), cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said: “Yet again, Bexhill residents have expressed support for setting up a town council for Bexhill.
“Seventy-eight per cent of those who responded to the consultation support a Bexhill Town Council. Only 22 per cent – less than 500 local residents – said they didn’t want a town council. This was despite a well-run anti-town council campaign.”
Much of the campaigning against the setting up of the town council centred on the costs of setting up and running such a body.
Criticisms had also been levelled about spending on a town council during the financial uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Cllr Bayliss, however, said that there was a “stronger counterargument to be made”.
She said: “The pandemic has brought in a sense of increased neighbourliness, community spirit and volunteering, involving all ages and from all backgrounds. “If we can tap into that spirit, then the town council could be launched on a tide of good will and voluntary action. It could get off to a flying start.
“We know that when lockdown was introduced the villages and Rye and Battle were able to get their mutual aid programmes up and running much more quickly than in Bexhill, because of the local council infrastructure. More reason to support setting up the same in Bexhill.”
The 2017 CGR consultation had seen more than 9,000 responses from Rother residents, 93 per cent of which were in favour of forming a town council.
However, the council, at that time controlled by the Conservative party, voted against the formation of a town council, citing concerns around the cost of such an action.
Following a change in political control at the May 2019 local elections, the council’s new membership – many of whom had campaigned in support of the issue – put forward proposals intended to overturn that decision.
Due to legislation, the action could not be taken without a fresh CGR, with a consultation running between February and April 2020.
While the response was less overwhelming than in the previous consultation, the majority of respondents still backed the proposals.
In all the council received 2,208 responses, with 78 per cent of all responders supporting the creation of a town council, while 22 per cent did not.
According to council papers, the younger the age group, the less likely they were to support a town council while older people were more likely to support.
In light of this the council has been recommended to look at ways to engage with younger residents who were less likely to support a town council.
Council papers say the steering group has also sought legal advice concerning the establishment of a shadow town council formed of existing Bexhill district councillors until the date of elections.
The recommendation follows a Community Governance Review (CGR) process and public consultation – the second to take place in the district since 2017.
A final decision is set to be made at a full council vote in the near future.
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