Following the letter from Mr Peter Leeming last week I feel I must clarify my position.
It is pleasing to note that he must have read the minutes from STC Full Council meeting of 28/1/2016 to have seen my name there, as he was not present at that meeting nor any other I have attended in the last few months.
For the record the full question I asked is as follows:
“I am pleased to see the proposal that councillors take turns in holding monthly surgeries. It is clear that at present there is a major inequality in the service which each gives to the town as regards number of committees they serve on and how often those meet. What is most concerning to many residents is the poor attendance of some especially where budgets are being set and the town’s finances planned and decided upon. To have attended less than 80 per cent of their meetings (eight of our 20 councillors) is frankly disappointing and where the percentage is only 58 per cent or 19 per cent out of a possible ten meetings so far it is unacceptable in the extreme. Furthermore to not bother to send apologies or a valid reason for absence in some instances both of which are required, shows a remarkable lack of respect for the office and the residents.
“I have to wonder why some people bothered to stand if they are unable for whatever reason to serve the town. If they can no longer do it I believe they should step down. Those who chair the local political parties need to be asking themselves whether they made the right choices in asking some to stand as this does not give a good impression to the voting public at all.
My question is what to do councillors propose to do about this sorry situation?”
Had the recently purchased video equipment and the recording of the meeting worked everyone would be able to see the responses which mainly came from those with low attendance.
Furthermore after the meeting one councillor came to speak to my friend and I as she accepted this was not a personal attack but rather a questioning of a system where she felt unable to stand down due to pressure from her local party – having been told she only needed to attend four meetings a year. (I think this is what is referred to as a paper candidate.) She said she is a busy business woman who does not actually live in Seaford and simply cannot do more and in the meeting indicated she will not be standing again.
I agree with Mr Leeming in that some STC councillors do a wonderful job. In particular I have observed at the many planning meetings I have attended (and there are far more of these than any other so the commitment is plain to see) the councillors have clearly done their background research and met with concerned residents. In recent months I have spoken to several of our town councillors about various issues and I know that some of them respond to emails with alacrity and work with various local town community groups giving up hours of their own time.
Mr Peter Leeming has suggested that rather than criticising town councillors for poor attendance at meetings more people should be prepared to give up their time and money to stand for election. What he fails to point out is that very difficult to get elected unless one is a member of a major political party as the majority of the residents who turn out to vote will do so on party lines. They fail to find out about the candidate’s commitment to the town or what time and expertise they have available.
They should ask if they have been adequately informed as to how much time they will need to give or asked whether being a councillor will fit in with their other commitments (see above – the conversation after the last full council meeting). Indeed we had one elected councillor decline to take up his seat triggering a by-election in Central.
I know this to be the case as I have given hours of my time to supporting the Campaigns of Candidates from Independents for Seaford as we fought two by-elections last year. All four of our candidates were prepared to do exactly as he has suggested but not within the structure of any major political party as we believe national politics has no place at town level.
When the next elections come up I am sure there will be other like minded and committed people prepared to do the same and put in a determined effort to further the interests of Seaford.
Headland Avenue, Seaford