The people of Seaford should be aware of yet another example of their town council’s intolerance to democracy which occurred at Thursday evening’s Annual Return meeting a part of which requires councillors to approve a corporate Governance Statement.
Being dissatisfied with governance procedures which approved borrowing £1.8m for the Seaford Head Golf Course Club House development, our verbal objection to approval (made by AL) was curtailed by the Leader of the Council on the grounds that “we’ve heard it all before”.
The Leader of Seaford Town Council effectively gagged the UKIP opposition. In the resulting recorded vote, our objection to approval of the Annual Governance Statement was overturned by 2 votes to 16.
The objection to approving governance procedures regarding the Club House project is the council’s non-compliance with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) process for local accountability and transparency which aims to place more power into people’s hands.
DCLG states that, at all levels of local government including parish/town councils, for democratic accountability to increase, local people need to be able to hold local authorities to account over how they spend public funds and the decisions that are made on their behalf. Transparency is the foundation of this accountability and the people must have the tools and information to enable them to decide. DCLG goes on to advise parish/town councils in particular that when considering to apply for borrowing approval, they should be fully open and transparent with their residents and taxpayers in all their dealings. Details of project plans for borrowing and loan repayment must be available to residents from an early stage including discussions of proposals in open meetings and information to be available to the public before and after a decision is taken.
Hitherto the people of Seaford have not had an opportunity to review the Club House business plan, which includes a function room which will compete with private sector facilities in the town, because it remains confidential on the grounds that ‘sensitive marketing and sales data would be made available to competitors’.
Well, sorry, should the council be competing with the local private sector in any case? A perfectly acceptable ‘like for like’ replacement Club House without a function room could have been built for half the cost. Nor has the business plan, which in our view is lacking the all important financial forecasts, been reviewed by an independent expert in the field to provide the confidence we need to ensure the venture will be a financial asset rather than a disastrous liability which would leave the people of Seaford to pick up the bill through increases in local council tax (precept) for years to come.
We should add that this letter expresses our personal view and not that of Seaford Town Council.
Cllr Dr Alan Latham
UKIP Seaford East
Cllr Roger Needham
UKIP Seaford East