Thursday, 25 April 2019
Bexhill on Sea: The Search for Greater Democracy
Every now and then I feel inspired to write a few paragraphs about my hometown of Bexhill on Sea, an Edwardian coastal resort, which is loved by the vast majority of its residents. My inspiration in this post is how, despite its rather sedate facade, our delightful town has been rocked to its core by local politics. Bexhill is part of Rother District Council, and local elections are next week. Please note that any views expressed in this post are my own, and not linked to any political party or candidate.
Rother District Council was formed in 1974 under the Local Government Act. It has 38 councillors of whom 18 represent wards in Bexhill. The electoral organisation is odd in so far as the other two towns in the electoral district, Rye and Battle, have their own Town Councils, but the largest town, Bexhill, does not. The imposing Town Hall in Bexhill houses a majority of councillors who represent areas outside of the town.
Bexhill has a well established and enviable community identity which is valued by its residents. There are numerous examples of volunteers from all political persuasions working together to benefit the people and heritage of our lovely town. Rother District Council is not responsible for the historic electoral arrangements, but, bearing in mind the uniqueness of the town, it is unsurprising that many voters are now uncomfortable at being governed by a majority of councillors who represent wards outside of Bexhill, some of whom appear to have rather less local knowledge than the residents.
Despite this, the creation of a Bexhill Town Council has been vigorously opposed by most members of the current Council. They have chosen to ignore the views of those residents in Bexhill who feel that the creation of a Town Council followed by a Bexhill Neighbourhood Plan would be a massive step towards giving the residents of Bexhill greater local representation. In a recent consultation over 90% of respondents, who participated, said they wanted a Town Council, so it is hardly surprising that giving Bexhill a greater say in its own governance has become a very high profile issue. There are of, course, various other local issues, but the creation of a Town Council is part of the manifesto put forward by many candidates, including a growing number of Independents. Feelings are running very high, and it is the talk of the town.
Once the local election is over, (less than a week to go now), we will still all have to live and work and volunteer together and contribute to our wonderful community. I believe that whatever the outcome of the election next week, most residents of Bexhill will continue to promote the town and help it to thrive. Despite a few very vocal people with varying connections to Bexhill (including, sadly, the occasional councillor or candidate) who have seemed unable to discuss local politics without resorting to unnecessary personal attacks, there are numerous examples of locals with opposing views collaborating and teasing out the issues which will benefit our lovely town, both on social media and in face to face discussions. But it could be so much better.
So if you get a chance to glance at the results of the local elections next week, take a look at Rother District Council. I am rather hoping that we will show how much we care about our town with a record breaking turnout.