Sam Souster, a Rye Member of the Rother District Council, walked out of an important meeting at Bexhill when Councillor Graham Gubby, Leader of the District Council refused to answer a question that could have saved Rother ratepayers £150,000.
Sam asked Leader Gubby “Why, in view of the fact that the District Council had a more than adequate computer system, were they going to spend £150,000 on an update?” The curt reply “I don’t have to answer that question” prompted Sam Souster to get up and leave the chamber. As he explained to a Rye’s Own reporter “I can see no point in being in there if my important questions are brushed aside. There is a forecast that the rates will rise 30% this year. This does not surprise me at all in view of the reckless way those who control the Rother Cabinet are wasting funds!”
Sam Souster went on to explain that there had been a letter from the Minister threatening to cap the rate rise if it were to be anywhere near the publicised 30%. A letter of reply from Councillor Gubby, which Sam considered to be offensive and very unlikely to get a favourable response was on the agenda for discussion at the same meeting but was dropped shortly before the meeting began.
Eventually the Council Cabinet realised that they had no option but to comply with the minister and reduced the increase to just below the threatened capping of 10%. This would be achieved by increasing car parking charges, leaving vacant staff posts unfilled, reducing revenue contributions to the capital programme and changing the medium term financial strategy.
These changes will have to be approved by a full meeting of the Council where there will no doubt be cries from some members that this will be putting off the crisis this year only to store up even more trouble next year when there will be nothing left to cut.
The increased car parking charges will hit Rye harden than anywhere else in the district. Rye alone produces more than double in car parking fees than the rest of Rother put together.
Rye has two District Councillors, Sam Souster and Granville Bantick. Neither of them are in the Cabinet which frames the shape and direction of Rother. Members outside the Cabinet are allowed make addresses at Cabinet meetings but it seems they are not entitled to a response!
No wonder there is a rumbling within Rye that the whole District Council system is unfair and there are the beginnings of a call to return to the old system when Rye was a Corporation and conducted its own finances and affairs.
A belated explanation as to why Rother need to spend £150,000 on an upgrade to its computer system is that “The lease on the mainframe is due to expire in 2006. The software for handling benefits was written by staff members about 15 years ago and two staff members familiar with it were moving towards retirement. We need to replace these systems with modern systems”.
Councillor Souster replied to this statement from Tina Smith, Rother head of technical services, he said ” This answer could have been provided when I put the question, but even if it is a true statement of the position it should have been budgeted for over a period.” He repeated that he was still very angry about the curt way in which his question was dismissed by the Council Leader.
From “Rye’s Own” March 2004
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