Frequently Asked Questions on Stage Two

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Frequently Asked Questions on Stage Two

Frequently asked questions on stage two of the governance review for Bexhill. This article will be updated over the consultation period.

Who can respond to this consultation?

This consultation is open to everyone.  We are encouraging Bexhill residents to take part and our communication is directed at Bexhill residents.  However, we will consider all responses from any source.  In particular, we would like young people to know there is no age limit and they can have their say. 

I have seen information around town and in the newspaper about a Community Governance Review of Bexhill-on-Sea - what is it all about?

In April 2015, Rother District Council (RDC) received a valid petition requesting the Council undertake a Community Governance Review (CGR) to consider changing how Bexhill-on-Sea is governed. The petition recommended an Area Committee be established for the unparished area of Bexhill-on-Sea. This process commenced in January this year and the Council is now consulting on four options that have come out of the first round of consultation.

Do I have to take part in this review?

No - but you are encouraged to do so - it affects all residents of Bexhill-on-Sea. The Council would really like to hear from as many residents as possible.  This is the last opportunity for you to let the Council know how you feel about the way Bexhill-on-Sea is managed and whether you are happy to pay more money through your Council Tax for Bexhill-on-Sea to be managed differently.

Can I respond to the Stage 2 consultation even though I did not respond to the Stage 1 consultation?

Yes. You do not need to have taken part in Stage 1. 

How many responses were there to the Stage 1 consultation and what was the view expressed?

The Council received around 930 responses to the Stage 1 consultation.  We asked for information and evidence about all possible governance models for Bexhill-on-Sea.  Some of the information sent in can be found in the information pack and on the web pages for each option.  In addition, many respondents expressed a preference at this early stage.

Of the total responses received, 87% favoured some kind of change, either the introduction of a parish or town council within Bexhill-on-Sea, or the establishment of an Area Committee, with only 3% requesting no change to the current arrangements.

Do I have to be registered to take part?

You do not have to be registered to take part.  We are not registering anyone for this consultation.  There is an open invitation for everyone and every organisation to take part.

If you are registered as part of the first phase, or if you took part in the first round of consultation, you will be sent either an invitation email or posted a leaflet about the consultation, as a courtesy. 

I gave my contact details to Democracy4Bexhill (D4B), did these get passed on and will I be written to separately?

Yes, any responders to Stage1 who requested contact by email or post will receive information on Stage 2 and how to respond.

I expressed my opinion during the Stage 1 consultation - why do I have to respond again?

The Stage 2 consultation is a completely separate exercise from Stage 1. Responses to Stage 1 will not be counted towards Stage 2.  The purpose of Stage 1 was to identify and narrow down the options to be costed for an informed Stage 2 consultation.

Will anonymous responses be counted?

No. Each responder will have to provide their name, address and postcode to be included.  Any duplicate or anonymous entries will not be accepted.

How can I make my preference known?

All forms of written reply will be accepted provided that these are confined to the four options available.

The Council's preferred method is either on-line at www.rother.gov.uk/communitygovernancereview or by completing a pre-printed Council postcard available from the Community Help Point, Town Hall, Bexhill or your local Councillor.

However, Individuals may send their preferred option, together with their name and address in any written form, such as a letter, any type of postcard or by email, as well as the above two preferred options

There are 5 ways to respond to the consultation:

  • Through the Council's website: www.rother.gov.uk/communitygovernancereview

  • Using the Council's pre printed postcard and either

    • posting it back or hand delivering it to the Town Hall address.

    • post it through your local Ward Councillor's door or asking them to collect it from you.

  • Through an email to consultations@rother.gov.uk

  • Sending a letter or any type of postcard to the Town Hall address

  • Handing in a letter or any type of postcard to The Town Hall
     

If you are prepared to give further information it will be very helpful to know if you are male or female, your age, if you are disabled or not and your ethnic background. We will use this information to check if different groups in Bexhill's population are being heard and to target more communication. We will also use this information to analyse the results.

If you respond on-line, please do not send back your card as well. The on-line responses will be checked against the postcards received and any duplicates removed.

If you wish to ask about the process of the Review you can email consultations@rother.gov.uk.

We request that local clubs, groups, charities, organisations and businesses and business groups respond on consultations@rother.gov.uk or write to Bexhill Community Governance Review, Rother District Council, Town Hall, Bexhill on Sea, TN39 3JX.

Please note: the Council asked for information about all possible options for governing Bexhill in the first stage of consultation held from January to March 2017. Following that consultation, the Council has made a decision on its short list and will not consider any information on alternative governance models.

Who is my local ward councillor and how can I contact them?

If you do not know who your local ward councillor is and how to contact them, you can find this information out easily on  Who is my councillor?  or enter your postcode on 'Your nearest' on www.rother.gov.uk

or alternatively, ring Democratic Services on 01424 787814 who will be pleased to help.

Can I have more postcards so all the interested residents in my household can respond?

You do not have to respond using a Rother District Council postcard, or using the website if you do not wish to. All forms of written reply such as letter, any type of postcard or by email will also be accepted provided that these are confined to the four options available.

Additional Rother District Council postcards can be obtained from your local ward councillor or the Community Help Point, Town Hall, Bexhill - 2 maximum per person.

If you do not know who is your local ward councillor go to our home page and enter your postcode in 'Your nearest' and select your home address.

When do I have to return the postcard by?

The consultation period will run from 1 September - 13 October 2017.  Postcards, emails and on-line responses must reach the Council by 5.00pm on Tuesday 31 October 2017 to be counted.

Will the option that is preferred by the majority of people who respond be agreed and introduced by RDC?

Not necessarily; this consultation is to understand the public's views, it is not a vote. Although the Council must consult Bexhill-on-Sea residents and take into account the views and opinions it receives, it also has to consult other bodies which appear to have an interest in the review and consider wider issues.  At the end of this process, the decision will be made by the elected Members of the Council.

What are the options?

The Council is consulting on four options, as follows:

  • Option one - no change

  • Option two - the creation of one Parish Council for the whole of Bexhill (to be styled a Town Council)

  • Option three - the creation of an Area Committee for Bexhill, with no decision making powers

  • Option four - the creation of four Parish Councils for Bexhill - North, East, South and West Bexhill based on the East Sussex County Council divisions

Information on the options and other detailed information can be found on the Council's website at www.rother.gov.uk/communitygovernancereview or can be viewed at the Community Help Point, Town Hall, Bexhill, Bexhill Library, Bexhill Museum and the De La Warr Pavilion.

Please note that the Council has made a decision on its shortlist, following a consultation on all possible governance models, and it will not consider information on any other options.

Who decided to consult on these options?

Following the Stage 1 consultation, the Community Governance Review Steering Group considered the results and agreed to recommend options 1 to 3 for further consultation to the Council's decision making body, the Cabinet and full Council, via the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee proposed the fourth option which was modified by Cabinet and agreed by Council on 10 July.

Why is "no change" an option when the majority of responders to Stage 1 clearly want change?

The vast majority of Bexhill-on-Sea residents did not respond to the Stage 1 consultation (97.4%) - their views are therefore unknown. There are residents who responded to the Stage 1 consultation who do not wish to see any change to the current arrangements for Bexhill-on-Sea.  If "no change" was not an option these residents would be unable to respond to the consultation and be disenfranchised from the debate, which is clearly not fair or democratic.  

How is Bexhill-on-Sea currently governed?

Bexhill-on-Sea is managed directly by Rother District Council which provides a wide range of local services to all Rother residents including community safety, public health services such as pest control and food hygiene, environmental services including noise and air pollution, waste collection, leisure and cultural services, planning, economic development and much more. This would remain much the same regardless of the outcome of this review.  

The first tier of local government is East Sussex County Council that delivers education, adult and children's social services, libraries, highways and so on.

There is currently no town or parish council operating in Bexhill-on-Sea. There are 20 wards across the District Council of which nine are wards in Bexhill, with two Members in each ward. There are 38 elected Members in total that represent the Council who speak for the whole of the District. The 18 elected Rother District Councillors for the nine Wards within Bexhill represent the residents direct to the Council; the remaining 20 Members represent the rural wards, outside of Bexhill.

Who elects the 18 RDC Bexhill-on-Sea councillors?

The residents (age 18 and over) of each Bexhill ward elect two councillors. The 18 RDC Bexhill-on-Sea councillors are democratically elected and accountable to the residents of their Bexhill ward. 

Who makes the majority of decisions for Bexhill-on-Sea?

In Rother District Council, the Council's executive decision making body, the Cabinet is made up of 10 Conservative councillors; four of which are Bexhill councillors. Two Cabinet Members hold a portfolio specifically for Bexhill - 'Bexhill Affairs' and 'Bexhill Town Centre'.  There is no equivalent for any rural town within the district.

Regulatory matters, such as planning and licensing are decided by the Planning and Licensing and General Purposes Committees.  These are made up of a mixture of political groups serving on the Council. There are eight Bexhill councillors out of 14 councillors in total on the Planning Committee and five Bexhill councillors out of 12 councillors in total on the Licensing and General Purposes Committee.

Full Council sets the overall budget and policy framework for the council, under which Cabinet and committees make their decisions. Anything outside of that is referred to full Council for approval by all 38 councillors acting collectively for the good of the whole district, not their own individual ward.  

Decisions about highways and footpaths, Bexhill Library and local county council services such as education and social care are made by East Sussex County Council.  Bexhill residents elect four county councillors across the four divisions in Bexhill.

Are Bexhill-on-Sea and rural councillors only accountable to their residents who elected them?

No. The overriding duty of all 38 Councillors is to the whole community of Rother. But they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them, by providing assistance, advice and help when requested. 

Why are there more rural councillors on Rother District Council (RDC) than those who represent Bexhill-on-Sea?

Nationally set rules mean that each councillor across RDC should represent roughly the same number of voters; for RDC this means 2,027 voters per councillor. The current allocation of rural councillors (20) to Bexhill councillors (18) makes sure that this is the case across RDC.  (Bexhill's population is 47% of the population of Rother.)

Which option(s), if any, will cost me more money than I am currently paying in Council Tax?

Options 2 (Town Council), 3 (Area Committee) and 4 (four separate parish councils) are likely to cost additional money, over and above what you currently pay in Council Tax.

Which is the cheapest option?

Option 1 (No change) will see the continuation with the current governance arrangements for Bexhill-on-Sea with Rother District Council (RDC) delivering services directly to the residents of Bexhill-on-Sea. Bexhill residents would continue to pay Council Tax direct to RDC for all their district provided services. 

For 2017/18 this was set at £211.16 per annum for a Band D property, which includes Bexhill Special Expenses of £41.05 to fund the following services specific to Bexhill: Bexhill parks, Bexhill allotments; Christmas lighting; Bexhill Museum; bus shelters and the Bexhill Town Forum.

At present, should RDC wish to set a Council Tax over 2% or £5 whichever is the greatest, RDC would have to hold a referendum at considerable expense. This Government "cap" provides some guarantee for Bexhill residents and maintains increases to an acceptable level.  This cap does not currently apply to town and parish councils. 

I've heard a lot about neighbourhood planning, does Bexhill-on-Sea need a town council to do this?

No. The absence of a Bexhill Town Council does not preclude Bexhill-on-Sea developing and producing a neighbourhood plan (NP) and benefitting from the advantages that go with a NP, once in place.  Rother District Council may determine that any strategic development (i.e. those serving a wider area) would be dealt with outside of the scope of an NP.

In Bexhill-on-Sea, as a non-parished area, an NP may be prepared by a constituted 'neighbourhood forum'. Any such forum must have at least 21 members and be open to new members; the community group would have to apply to RDC who would have to agree whether it met the right standards.  If RDC decided that the community group did meet the right standards, the group could call itself a 'neighbourhood forum'; this is simply the technical term for groups which have been granted the legal power to do neighbourhood planning in a particular area.  A 'neighbourhood forum' may be established to prepare a plan for a particular part of the town, such as Sidley or Little Common, for example.   More information about NPs can be found on the Council's website at the following link: http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/9379/Neighbourhood-Plans

Will Rother District Council and the Bexhill-on-Sea district councillors still exist if there is a Bexhill Town Council or four parish councils?

Yes.  Rother District Council would still exist and continue to provide many of the services currently provided, not just to Bexhill-on-Sea but the whole of the Rother District.

The introduction of another layer of local government would mean there would be three tiers of local government in Bexhill-on-Sea - the same as all rural towns and parishes across the District. Bexhill-on-Sea residents would be represented by two town councillors or up to 17 parish councillors, two Rother district councillors and one East Sussex county councillor in the ward in which they live. 

Will a Bexhill Town Council or parish councils be able to make decisions for Bexhill-on-Sea?

A Bexhill Town Council or the four parish councils will be able to make decisions about services that have been devolved to it, along with other additional services it wants to provide for the residents of Bexhill-on-Sea or their neighbourhood.  Rother District Council would continue to provide and make decisions about the majority of services to the residents of Bexhill-on-Sea, including responsibility for local planning decisions, licensing, waste collection etc.

The town council or the four parish councils would also be able to make representations to Rother District Council and endeavour to influence decisions that affect Bexhill-on-Sea by representing the views of the residents, in a very similar way to what the district councillors do now.

What will happen to the Bexhill Town Forum if a Town Council is created?

Currently, Rother District Council provides funding to the Bexhill Town Forum, in the absence of a town council. The funding provided by Rother District Council to the Town Forum would cease.  It would a matter for the new Bexhill Town Council or the four parish councils in Bexhill to consider whether they wished to continue to fund the Bexhill Town Forum.

Whether the Bexhill Town Forum could exist without funding, from either Rother District Council or a new Bexhill Town Council or the four parish councils in Bexhill, would be a matter for the Bexhill Town Forum to decide.

If a Bexhill Town Council or four parish councils are set up would they set its own precept for the town or parish?

Yes. This would be within the town or parish council's control.  Currently, parish and town councils (P&TCs) are not bound by the same legislation as Rother District Council (RDC) and are able to put their own local precept up by any percentage or amount without the need for a local referendum.  RDC would have no powers over the Town Council's finance. RDC is only permitted to collect and pass on what it is requested to do so, by the parish & town councils. 

Why are residents not being given a chance to vote in a referendum on this matter?

With the exception of a referendum on governance arrangements of the district council itself (mayors, cabinets and committee systems), no power is available to local electors either to force their local authority to hold a referendum, or to oblige it to take any particular action following the result of a referendum.

In accordance with legislation, and as laid out in the previously agreed plan, Rother District Council is able to determine the outcome of the Community Governance Review without the need for a referendum.

Referendums come at considerable cost, which would have to be funded by all the Rother Council Tax payers; estimated costs for a referendum in Bexhill-on-Sea are in the region of £40,000.

What happens next?

At the close of the consultation, the Council will consider the outcome and make final recommendations which are not subject to further consultation.  All submissions will be considered by the Bexhill Community Governance Review Steering Group following the closing date.  Recommendations will be considered at Overview and Scrutiny Committee (27 November) and Cabinet (4 December).  Full Council will make a final decision on 18 December 2017. 

**There is no further consultation stage**

**This is your last chance to let the Council know your preference!**

How do I ask a question about the review process or the consultation?

You can email consultations@rother.gov.uk

Is there an age limit for residents who take part?

There is no age limit.  All ages are invited to take part and choose their preferred option.

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