TOWN ISSUES ON AGENDA
The Town Meeting at the Community Centre on Wednesday 2 April was well supported, about 150 people in all were present compared with 16 one year ago.
It was a great conception but failed badly on two counts. The lack of a microphone and amplifier resulted in the majority of the hall being unable to hear what was being said and the envisaged ‘quick dating system’ with a layout of tables with councillors taking questions from the public on a rotating basis never really got going.
I was disappointed by the absence of Councillors Potter and Jonathon Breeds and by the poor presentation by District Councillor Sonia Holmes, no doubt at a disadvantage without a microphone.
Several good things came out of the meeting, Mayor Paul Osborne, when answering a very pointed question, revealed that “Work would commence on the Central Garage Site in June.” This was confirmed by County Councillor Keith Glazier who reported that, although the Monastery was also under consideration for the new library, the old Garage Site was the “Preferred option at Lewes”.
The fact that the new format for the meeting persuaded many more members of the public to attend, a direct result of the idea put forward by Councillor David Wright, shows that there is no ‘Public Apathy’, it was Rye Town Council’s misunderstanding of the situation that was at fault.
They were also out of step with WHY so many people turned up. A great majority were looking for the Council to explain their position on Area Committees.
RYE COUNCIL HAVE NOT BUDGED
A meeting last August at the Thomas Peacock was attended by 300 people who listened intently to the Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Keith House who explained how the Area Committee system was working there and the benefits and advantages over the old system.
Almost to a man, 300 people in that hall put their hands up for Area Committee’s here. It was a clear message to Rye and Rother Councillors.
In the eight months that have passed it appears that the wishes of those people have been ignored, the majority on Rye Town Council seems to have taken on the task of echoing the voice of the Rother Cabinet (The seven councillors, none of whom was elected by Rye constituents) who declare they know better than the people what is required. These seven councillors seem to take notice of County, who take the same line. ‘The status quo is what’s best for you’.
Do they really understand? County Councillor Keith Glazier tells us there are only two Districts running under the Area Committee system. It just shows how out of touch he is. Sue Prochak, a Rother District Councillor informs us otherwise. 26% of all District and Borough Councils and Manchester City Council, have been split into Area Committees. That is more than one in four throughout the country! What is good enough for Manchester and Eastleigh is desperately needed in Rother.
AREA COMMITTEE DEBATE
This month’s Bye Election will at least see the Area Committee debate coming to the fore again.
At the time of printing the main body of the magazine the candidates are not known, they will be listed in the ‘Late News Supplement’.
My questions to all candidates, who ever and how many there turn out to be, would be confined only to the subject of Area Committees and Quality Status.
Question One. Area Committees could bring ACTUAL PLANNING and CASH CONTROL back to Rye Town Hall in the form of our areas ten District Councillors. (The area would cover from Camber in the east to Fairlight and Broad Oak in the west and Northiam to the north. Three of the ten are Rye Town Councillors.)
Are you prepared to take on the new responsibilities this could bring?
Question Two. Quality Town Status has brought nothing for Rye to date but may see concessions from Rother in the future.
Which of the two systems do you support and why?
I should like to see a Public Debate with all candidates present. Each having ten minutes to put their own case and then answering questions from the hall. The Thomas Peacocke might be a good venue as it has the advantage of a sound system that would allow each speaker a chance to make themselves heard.
Rye people are not apathetic when it comes to local politics as long as some form of result is possible. Words are cheap without power to use them.
BEYOND A JOKE
After the fiasco the other week when Rye’s only Post Office was two hours late opening an even more serious situation arose on the week beginning 18 April.
On the Monday the Rye Office was an hour late opening and on Tuesday a note appeared stating the doors would not be opening today because of “Unforeseen circumstances”.
On Wednesday it was the same and a call to Head Office in Barnsley came up with even more disturbing news. It was confirmed that the Rye Office would be closed “until further notice”. No reasons could be given because it was “Confidential.”
This was reminiscent of a previous occasion when Post Office Counters closed the branch for “an audit”. The owner of the franchise was abroad. At that time the Postmaster from the sub office on Tilling Green took charge until it was all sorted out.
What happens now? As I write this column on Wednesday 23 April the nearest post office that offers a car taxing facility is at Jempson’s in Peasmarsh. Senior citizens cannot be expected to walk that far? There is only one answer. The Post Office at Tilling Green must be reinstated. What is wrong with the Labour Party? Have they changed so much that old people are not their concern any more? A town the size of Rye, with a large percentage of pensioners, requires two Post Offices. The very people that have no access to computers are the ones being hurt the most.
A very interesting official document has just arrived on my desk. It is headed ‘Area Committees’. It has an introductory paragraph that reflects on the Power Inquiry of April 2005.
This was a year-long study to identify the factors that currently act as barriers to effective participation. These include poorly executed participation programmes, lack of cultural change in authorities, lack of incentive for public involvement and failure to respond to the outcomes of participation. Helena Kennedy QC, the Inquiry Chair, said, ‘We have got to respect ordinary people and give them a reason to get involved in democratic processes. Above all, the public has got to believe that their participation will make a difference.”
It goes on to comment
One way of increasing public involvement is through devolving decision making. Area committees have been shown to be an effective way of doing this.
It goes on to explain what Area Committees are and what functions can be devolved to them. These include :-
Tourism Regeneration Housing
Development Control (Planning)
Grants to community groups
Parks and gardens
Monitoring service delivery
Who has Area Committees?
26% of local authorities already have area decision-making structures in place. They range from the large metropolitan boroughs to rural district councils.
So, Sue Prochak was right and Keith Glazier wrong. It’s funny but even in politics, the true facts usually come out. It seems that Area Committees, similar to those run on The Eastleigh Borough system (which is acknowledged as one of the best in the country), would be better for all those in Rother who want a more accountable and transparent kind of democracy.
Split Rother in three and change a clumsy, ‘know better than you’ District Council into three areas run by people who know their own patch and are prepared to accommodate better working relations with town and village councils.
At last the powers that be have realised that we are polluting our countryside with polythene and plastic. They have discovered, after all these years, that the main culprit is the polythene bag, distributed in their millions by supermarkets, we see them discarded everywhere and, we are informed, they can be a menace for 200 years before they degrade.
The Jempson brothers have taken the bold step to stop supplying the bags and encourage customers to return to the old method of reusable shopping bags.
Rye Chamber of Commerce has introduced ‘The Rye Bag’ a jute shopping bag designed by local potter Steve Duffy and there have been several other initiatives for recycling and rubbish clearing. Rye has always been green and anything that helps it stay that way gets my support.
What worries me, even more than rubbish pollution, is development pollution. Don’t get me wrong, sensible building on brownfield sites is fine but mass development on the green fields that surround Rye is not in the interest of this town.