'Opportunity to reassure public of our good intentions' Bognor Regis Town Hall petitioners told

Protestors outside the Bognor Regis town hall back in July. Photo: Paul Wells.Protestors outside the Bognor Regis town hall back in July. Photo: Paul Wells.
Protestors outside the Bognor Regis town hall back in July. Photo: Paul Wells.
A 1,500-name petition raising concerns about the services available at Bognor Regis Town Hall has been debated by Arun councillors.

The petition, organised by Mandee Keeling, was tabled during a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (January 18).

It challenged the appointment system introduced at the town hall for those seeking help and advice – and prompted councillors to offer reassurances that face-to-face services would still be provided for the foreseeable future.

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Mrs Keeling said she started the petition after hearing from vulnerable residents and those without transport or the internet about their problems when it came to contacting the council for help.

She shared fears that services in the Grade II listed building would be reduced and the town hall eventually closed.

She told the councillors: “We are simply asking you to maintain face-to-face council services in Bognor Regis Town Hall for the foreseeable future and to look after this splendid example of Bognor Regis’s heritage in the manner to which it should be.

“That cannot be difficult.”

Paul Dendle, chair of the corporate support committee, accepted that there had been changes over the years in the way the council interacts with the public.

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But he said the petition had been ‘built on a false premise’ – that there was no face-to-face interaction.

Council leader Shaun Gunner said the premise was ‘simply not true’.

He added that the appointment system was there to help people and actually enhanced the service ‘so that [people] don’t have to sit around hoping that the right officer wanders through the town hall at the time they turned up’.

Mr Gunner added: “I want to be absolutely clear that in my entire time as leader there has been no attempt whatsoever by me or by officers to have any discussions about reducing services there.”

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Tony Dixon, leader of the Independent Group, wondered if the petition was born out of a lack of trust in the council.

He added: “I see this as an opportunity to reassure the public that actually our intentions are good.”

His recommendation that the council issue a statement of reassurance that face-to-face services would be provided at the town hall for the foreseeable future was accepted.

A list detailing all the services that can be accessed face-to-face will also be published.

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