From December 2007 Issue of Rye’s Own
There was uproar in a packed Council Chamber on Monday 12 November when a demand, in the form of a 60 person petition asking for an enquiry into the affairs of the Rye Partnership was discussed.
The petition was signed by many prominent people including a past Mayor of Rye and several past District and Town Councillors.
Christopher Strangeways, on behalf of the visitors, requested that the discussion of the subject be brought forward “While everyone was still fresh”. A vote by Councillors backed up the suggestion and the agenda was amended.
Councillor Bantick’s Condemnation
Councillor Granville Bantick condemned the Partnership fairly comprehensively, citing failures, particularly to do with the Library, the Fish Processing area at the Fishmarket, and for the overall lack of accountability. During his speech Councillor Bantick was interrupted by Partnership Chairman, County Councillor Keith Glazier with cries of “Not correct” and even threats to sue. The Mayor, Councillor Paul Osborne intervened to allow Councillor Bantick to conclude his speech with a proposal that the Town Council should forward the petition on to the Audit Commission or a similar body, with their own recommendation that an investigation into the Partnerships affairs should take place.
“Why I Resigned” Sam Souster
Councillor Sam Souster explained that during his time as Partnership Chairman the affairs were run correctly and he produced documents relating to the successful grants that had been obtained by Rye Partnership during the period up to 2003. He explained that Councillor Bantick had got his facts wrong in many of the criticisms he had of the Partnership.
“I resigned from the Partnership in 2003 because I did not agree with the way things were going with the Library project”. He went on to say that “Things began to go wrong from that time”.
The Mayor Praises Partnership
The Mayor then recited a long list of good things that he remembered the Partnership achieving, he was eventually interrupted from the visitors gallery by Freddie Lees who objected to the Mayor’s one sided approach to the debate. Councillor Osborne gave way and invited Dr. Keith Taylor to speak. Dr. Taylor chairs the Library Committee and was particularly damning on the way Rye Partnership had “Failed the community” on the Library project. He claimed that the recent ‘disappearance’ of Town Manager Yolanda Layborne, the lack of straight answers as to why she had left, and the uncertainty of a replacement, made this a good time for the whole of the Rye Partnerships affairs to be put under scrutiny.
District Councillor David Russell had the latest news on the Central Garage site in Cinque Ports Street, now out of the Partnership’s control and being developed by the owner of the ground. “New plans are about to be submitted” said Councillor Russell. “For a Library on the ground floor and living accommodation above”.
Councillor Lorna Hall wanted to know the answer to a financial matter. “Ian Foster has asked me to query what happened to the remainder of a £20,000 grant that was made to the Bonfire Boys. It was to be delivered over two years and senior members of the Bonfire Society had signed official government and European papers confirming the amount. Mr. Foster claims that less than half of the sum was ever received and would like to know what has happened to the other £10,000 plus.”
Sara Nixon had been a director of the Partnership but resigned when the Fishmarket and Library projects were introduced. “I considered these to be well beyond the Partnerships capabilities. Up till then the smaller projects were very successful.” Sara wondered how the mortgages on the Companies properties stood and what the income that served as a cash flow produced at present.
Sue Drew requested to know when the Partnership was going to grant her a proper lease on the building she uses at the Fishmarket. “I have been asking the Partnership for over five years and still have not got an answer”.
Keith Glazier replied that matters were in hand and they were working out a system that would allow them to give her an answer in the immediate future.
“You Are A Bully Councillor Glazier!”
There were many questions being thrown at the Partnership Chairman, some relating to “improper A.G.M.s” and “missing accounts”.
“There are no missing accounts, we are probably the most audited business in town. I would welcome any enquiry from any direction.” He went on to say that “He recognised there had been mistakes made, mainly in public relations. We are putting this right. I want the Partnership to be completely transparent. I put many hours of unpaid time in my efforts to make Rye a better place.”
At this point there were even more questions and the Partnership Chairman turned on the public.
“You are always finding fault, never recognising the good things that have been done” he then antagonised them by refusing to take more questions, until Mrs. Blackman stood up and spoke to him directly.
“I have never been so disgusted by a Councillor’s actions before, you are a bully Councillor Glazier”.
Mrs. Blackman’s outburst obviously affected the Councillor, he immediately softened and was his affable self again. He went on to answer all questions in a conciliatory fashion.
Then it came to the vote. The first motion was lost but on Councillor Potter’s advice a proposal to delay the decision until the next meeting, to allow the petitioners time to gather a much larger number on their list, was seconded by Councillor Hall and carried by eleven votes with four abstentions.
The meeting, which started at 6.30pm. was still going strong way past 10pm. and was attended by far more public than the Annual Town Meeting has ever entertained. It seems as though Rye politics are coming alive again after many years of apathy by the public. Is this because the people of Rye are beginning to sense that some kind of real local decision making may be about to return to Rye Town Hall?