Cinque Ports Speakers Day

From the June 2006 issue of “Rye’s Own”

The Campaign for a Democratic Rye group has taken all three seats on offer at the two recent by-elections. The latest, on 31 August, saw a turn out of over 20% give a clear win to both CDR candidates.

Eric Streeton, a born and bred Ryer, topped the poll with 326 votes and passionate Ryer by choice, Dr. Keith Taylor was second just eleven votes behind.

At the previous by-election in June, for one place, CDR candidate Sonia Holmes won the seat in similar style.

These two results are a good indication that the people of Rye are not happy with the present District and County domination of local affairs.

The CDR is in the process of preparing a report and proposals for implementing a better system. The following is an introduction to that report.

The Campaign for a Democratic Rye was formed just over a year ago in response to a series of major failures in local government greatly affecting this historic Sussex town. At the heart of the problem was the lack of a voice by local people in directing their own affairs.

In this respect Rye is in no way unique. Problems with local governmentare being seen all over Britain.

Nevertheless, within Rye the difficulties experienced were especially acute.

Rye is no ordinary small market town. Historically. It joined the Cinque Ports Confederation in the Middle Ages to help with coastal defence, it enjoyed some special rights and privileges and a large
degree of autonomy, even then.

Architecturally, it has retained some of its town walls and fortifications, and its medieval street plan. There is a wealth of Tudor and Georgian architecture. Its atmosphere has attracted generations of writers and artists and continues to attract very large numbers of visitors, now estimated to be as great as a million a year. It is internally acclaimed tourist centre and a unique asset to Britain.

Rye lost its Borough Status under the terms of a local government reform Act of 1972 and came under the general jurisdiction of a District Council, in Bexhill. Its Town Council was left with very few powers.
Thus it had only an advisory role in important areas such as planning.  At the same time, various organisations which were un-elected took over many of the Town Councils functions. Some of these were derived from Regional Government such as a local partnership in the case of Rye. A recent report form the Audit Commission has emphasised that
such organisation may neither be transparent nor fully accountable, as far as the local community is concerned.

Within Rye, a series of unpopular decisions, made by outside organisations and without adequate consultation, greatly inflamed local opinion.
A large public meeting endorsed the formation of a new group. “The Campaign for a Democratic Rye”. This was charged with the task of examining the feasibility of restoring power to a democratically elected Town Council.

This organisation has already received much local support and now has three Town Councillors.

In what follows, we shall discuss the history of government in Rye, the powers that were surrendered to Bexhill in the 1970s, the present
way in which Rye is governed and our proposals for the future. We realise that the government itself may, later this year, produce a White Paper on changes in local government. This is however likely
to be argued about at great length before any proposals are accepted.

The need for change in the system of local government in Rye is however an urgent one. We do not feel we should wait for government changes
that may not in any case benefit us. In the interim, we are presenting therefore out own report of what we think needs to be done.

The people of Rye have a long history of sturdy independence. They deserve something better than the present system of local government which has denied them for far too long a full say in determining their own affairs.”

Rye eagerly awaits this report and will look at the impact that the ‘gang of three’ can have on the other thirteen Rye Councillors. Even now, Rye could begin to press for major devolvement of power from
Rother. Moreover, there is nothing to prevent Rye from using its limited existing authority to introduce improvements, like a safe cycle/pathway to circumnavigate the town – as Sonia Holmes has suggested.


The Right Worshipful Mayor of Rye and Speaker of the Cinque Ports, Councillor Paul Osborne, entertained The Lord Warden, Admiral Lord
Boyce and Mayors, Macebearers and dignitaries from every Cinque Port and Limb in the Confederation on Speaker’s Day Saturday 16 September.

A colourful procession made its way from the Town Hall to St. Mary’s via Pump Street and Church Square where the Dean of Chichester was
present to read the sermon.

After the service the gathering made their way to The newly refurbished George Hotel where they enjoyed an excellent lunch.

The ceremony took place at Rye as it is the turn of the Ancient Town to hold the Speakership in 2006. Speaker of the Cinque Ports is an old position that dates back to the Middle Ages but Speaker’s Day
was first introduced in 1992 by former Rye Mayor John Ciccone.

There are only two official Speakers in England, the other one resides in the Houses of Parliament.

From the June 2006 issue of “Rye’s Own”

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