Time for our side of the story

The chairman and vice chairman of the forum executive committee have, to date, kept to ourselves the way we have been subjected to a constant barrage of attack, criticism and verbal abuse.

But at tonight’s forum meeting this situation reached a head and we have decided it is time to put our side of the story. When we took our places on the committee, just over a year ago, we were told in no uncertain terms that the forum was in a bad way with fewer and fewer people attending – we were charged with bringing it back to life.

We therefore set about bringing our professional skills to bear and finding ways to ensure that the forum really could be the voice of Bexhill and meet the needs of all Bexhill.

We identified key needs: to bring the forum to as many people as is possible, and to make sure that the few hours spent at forum meetings are well-informed.

To these ends we established a website, a Facebook page and an email address taking every step we could to make people aware of them, and invited people to raise topics with us in advance of meetings so that they could be researched sufficiently to ensure quality discussion would take place in public.

Sadly this has led to accusations against us of being, among other things, undemocratic. According to a certain small group of people, it is undemocratic to reach out to all the people of Bexhill and not just the few who would attend forum meetings.

And, apparently, it is far better to have people raise random topics and spend meeting time arguing about them, totally unprepared and with little information.

Many people have told us that the Forum had become unbearable with petty squabbling being the order of the day and have begged us to stay on and keep it at the professional standard that we have now established.

We would very much like to be able to carry on doing what we believe in, what we have shown is successful and effective, but if this barrage of attacks is to continue then we, as volunteers who put a great deal of time into the forum’s background work, will have to reconsider our positions.

We are the first to admit that the angry exchanges tonight (Tuesday, November 3) do not represent the professional standards that we believe in.

But when a member of the audience stands up and accuses the chairman of ignoring her previously raised hand (we had bright spotlights on us so that we could not properly see the audience at that stage) and of not replying to her email (it had only reached us that afternoon and we had promptly replied promising to answer in full as soon as possible), such accusations are hard to take on top of all that has been going on in the previous months.

What made this worse was that the chairman had spoken to the lady concerned before the meeting and explained about the email – but she didn’t mention that in public.

It seems that the forum can now go one of two ways: back to where it was, based on a minute percentage of Bexhill’s residents arguing the toss and driving others away, or forward to continue to meet the needs of all of Bexhill’s residents as far as that is possible.

We have no intention of going backwards – there is so much ahead for our town and we have the opportunity of informing and engaging everyone in a constructive and effective way.

That is what we joined this committee to do. That is what democracy is about.

Alan Peirce


Theresa Stanbridge

Vice chairman

Bexhill Town Forum

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