It is regrettable that Rother District Council’s Cabinet and ruling group have chosen to undermine the Bexhill Community Governance Review before the statutory public consultation has even concluded.
At its meeting on July 3 Cabinet considered the Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s latest consultation proposals and made a number of changes to them that were subsequently ratified by the ruling group on July 10.
The Committee’s Governance option 3, an Area Committee for Bexhill, has been eroded as a result of the Cabinet deciding that such a Committee should have no executive powers.
Consequently, this option is likely to receive minimal public support because it would be nothing more than a mechanism for raising concerns and exchanging information. Such a vehicle exists already in the guise of the Bexhill Town Forum. This option has now been rendered pointless.
The Scrutiny Committee’s Option 4, the creation of three parish councils subdivided as Bexhill, Little Common and Sidley, has also been fatally amended with the ruling group replacing this with the option of four parish councils covering North, South, East and West Bexhill.
New parish councils are more likely to succeed if their boundaries are based not on ‘administrative convenience’ but ‘natural communities’ that residents identify with.
The Cabinet has additionally weakened the most popular option with the public thus far, Option 2, a town council for Bexhill, by deciding that the first services to be ‘considered’ for devolvement to a town council would be public conveniences and grounds maintenance upon the conclusion of the current contracts. The Cabinet has therefore decided that the earliest Rother would transfer a service to a Bexhill Town Council is 2022!
Here are some services Rother could pass over earlier: car parks, litter and dog waste bins, visitor information grant, bus shelters, public seats, allotments, Christmas lighting.
The Cabinet’s disdain for the Governance Review is evidenced by the following Minute from its July 3 meeting: ‘The Executive Director of Resources reminded Members that the council was legally obliged to complete the Community Governance Review process now that it had been triggered’.
On the basis of their behaviour thus far one cannot help but suspect that some Members of the Cabinet and ruling group have decided already their preferred outcome: Option 1 – no change.
Every other village and town in Rother (save for East Guldeford) has its own council. If you think Bexhill deserves one too let Rother know by responding to stage 2 of the consultation later in the year. Review updates may be found at www.rother.gov.uk/CommunityGovernanceReview.