Community Governance Review of Bexhill-on-Sea

Status: Past

We reviewed the system of local government for Bexhill and completed a public consultation. Our final decision is available here. The consultation ran from 21 February to 3 April 2020.

A Town Council for Bexhill?

Following the consultation the Council made a final decision on 21 September to establish a Bexhill Town Council.  You can read more information below.

We carried out a second review into the system of local government for Bexhill. We asked for views from residents of all ages, workers and other regular visitors, businesses and local organisations operating in Bexhill.

What would change if we had a town council for Bexhill?

  • A town council can listen to your say on Bexhill matters. It can provide local people with a strong voice. It can make decisions, guided by you, about local services. It can champion residents and local businesses. It can represent Bexhill’s interests to other organisations.
  • You may have heard of neighbourhood plans. A town council could produce its own. The plan would set out how Bexhill wants to evolve over time – for example, it could identify the location of new non-strategic housing sites, in line with targets for Bexhill. The process would start with getting your ideas about Bexhill’s future. The plan would be drawn up after input from Rother and other organisations. After asking you whether you are happy with it, the plan would be put to an Inspector. When approved, neighbourhood plans are usually respected. After approval of the plan, developers will have to provide to Bexhill Town Council a greater proportion of the money they have to contribute towards local infrastructure. This can be spent on infrastructure such as community facilities and could amount to millions of pounds.
  • A town council can encourage pride in Bexhill and build on the town’s strong community spirit. By working with local firms, volunteers and community groups, it could deliver innovative services while providing good value for money.
  • 18 councillors would be elected to a Bexhill Town Council. The cost of setting up the council would be up to £100,000, depending on the services provided. The first election would take place in May 2021. The town council would be responsible for electing the mayor for Bexhill.
  • A town council would bring Bexhill into line with the rest of Rother. There would be the county council, a district council and a town council.
  •  If everyone agrees, the other two councils could hand over some services to the town council, such as: parks, play areas, toilets, allotments and the museum. On top of that, the town council could take on other functions, also by agreement.
  • A town council will mean an increase in your Council Tax bill. Councils for towns similar in size to Bexhill have budgets of about £1 million. If you are living in a Band D property this would involve you paying £59.87 a year in Council Tax to fund Bexhill Town Council.
  • Bexhill residents in such properties already pay £36.89 per year in ‘Special Expenses’ to Rother District Council to cover some of the services supplied within the town. If, as is likely, these services are transferred to the town council, you will be paying an additional £22.11 a year – about 42p a week towards its operation. If you receive the maximum Council Tax reduction, this would be an extra 8p a week. These figures will be less if you live in a smaller property.
BandsABCDEFGH
Annual£14.74£17.20£19.65£22.11£27.02£31.94£36.85£44.22
Weekly   £0.28   £0.33   £0.38   £0.43  £ 0.52  £0.61   £0.71   £0.85

What if there is no change?

  • There would be no additional increase to Bexhill residents’ Council Tax to pay for a town council.
  • Bexhill households would continue to pay 87p a year to fund the Bexhill Charter Trustees, who appoint the mayor.
  • Rother District Council would continue to manage Bexhill affairs. You will continue to pay towards Bexhill parks, bus shelters, Bexhill Museum and Bexhill Town Forum under the heading ‘Bexhill Special Expenses’ on your Council Tax bill.

Need to know more?  There is more information on the FAQ section below.

Rother District Council sent an information leaflet to every home in Bexhill after 24 February.  If you didn’t get a leaflet the main text is the same as the text above.  A pdf copy is at the bottom of this web page.

As the proposal is for 18 councillors representing the 9 wards of Bexhill, 2 for each ward, below is a Map of the 9 wards in Bexhill-on-Sea

Bexhill Wards Map (pdf)

There are more facts on the review and the two options in the FAQs below.

 If you have another question about the options or the consultation please email consultations@rother.gov.uk or write to Bexhill Community Governance Review, Rother District Council, Town Hall, Bexhill on Sea, TN39 3JX or ask your local councillor

Progress Updates

Monday, 2 March:  We have over 600 responses.  We are receiving most responses online but some are using the leaflet.  The leaflet was delivered to Bexhill homes from last Monday.  We have received questions from 6 respondents and one request for large print documents.  Sussex Police (Bexhill) and Hastings and Rother Interfaith Forum have responded.  Thank you to all those taking part so far.

Bexhill Governance Review Leaflet

Bexhill Community Governance Review Terms of Reference

Bexhill Wards Map 2019

How to Take Part in this Consultation

This consultation closed on Friday 3rd April 2020


Frequently Asked Questions from Those Answering the Consultations

Q: What is a community governance review?

A:

A chance for you to give us your view on how you would like to be governed.

Q: Who can undertake a community governance review?

A:

Since 13 February 2008 all principal councils have had responsibility for undertaking community governance reviews and have been able to decide whether to action the recommendations made in those reviews.  In making that decision, they will need to take account of the views of local people. Principal councils are also required to have regard to the guidance on undertaking community governance reviews published jointly by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).  This document can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-governance-reviews-guidance

Q: Why is Rother District Council holding a further community governance review for Bexhill?

A:

In 2017, Rother District Council undertook a Community Governance Review of Bexhill-on-Sea. The final recommendation was for no change. Following the elections in May 2019, the council agreed the following motion: “In the light of the outcome of the Local Election results and the overwhelming support for candidates that support a Town Council for Bexhill-on-Sea, this Council requests officers to report as to the required procedure with a view to the establishment of a Town Council for Bexhill by 2021.”

The Council is legally required to conduct a further Community Governance Review in order to introduce a town council for Bexhill-on-Sea. The Council can include the views expressed during the 2017 Community Governance Review.

Q: What must Rother District Council take into account when undertaking a community governance review?

A:

Rother District Council is required to take into account:

  • the impact of existing community governance arrangements on community cohesion; and
  • the size, population and boundaries of any local community or proposed parish or town council.

In carrying out a community governance review, Rother District Council must also consider the wider picture of community governance.  This includes taking account of well-established forms of community governance such as local residents’ associations and community forums. These can be considered as either alternatives to or stages towards establishing parish or town councils.
Guidance does, however, indicate that parish and town councils are set apart from these other kinds of governance by the fact that they are a democratically elected level of local government and can raise a precept, set a budget and possess specific powers.
The guidance published jointly by the MHCLG (formerly called Department of Community and Local Government (DCLG)) and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) specifically refers to charter trustee areas, such as Bexhill-on-Sea and states:
“Proposals to create a parish or parish council covering all or part of a charter trustee area need to be judged in particular against the following considerations:
a) the effect on the historic cohesiveness of the area; and
b)  what are the other community interests in the area? Is there a demonstrable sense of community identity encompassing the charter trustee area? Are there smaller areas within it which have a demonstrable community identity and which would be viable as administrative units?
These issues need to be taken into account in those areas with certain cities or boroughs which will be affected by any consequent reorganisation from the structural and boundary changes in the 2007 Act.”

Q: If I responded in 2017, do I need to respond again?

A:

Yes

Q: Who will undertake the community governance review and how?

A:

Rother District Council is responsible for conducting the Review within its electoral area.  The Council has established a Community Governance Review Steering Group who will undertake the Review and make recommendations in accordance with its terms of reference set by Full Council.
The Community Governance Review Steering Group will be responsible for undertaking the communication and consultation strategy.

Q: Who will make the final decision?

A:

Rother District Council at a Full Council meeting will be required to approve the final recommendations from the Community Governance Review Steering Group, Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet.  If there is to be a Town Council a Community Governance Order would then need to be created.

The Community Governance Review Steering Group’s membership and minutes arising from its meetings can be found at the following link:
https://rother.moderngov.co.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=247

The meetings of the Community Governance Review Steering Group are open to the public.

Q: When will the final decision be made?

A:

Legislation requires Community Governance Reviews to be completed within 12 months of the terms of reference being formally published. For this review the 12-month period will run from February 2020 to 2021; it is anticipated that full Council will approve a final recommendation in July 2020.  Should the Council recommend that a Town Council for Bexhill be established the Community Governance Order is expected to be approved by the end of year.

Q: How can I take part in the consultation?

A:

You can complete the consultation on-line above or visit the Community Help Point, Town Hall, Bexhill and complete a paper copy. You can also contact your local Councillor for assistance.

You can also look out for a leaflet that is being delivered to every household within the Bexhill wards of Rother District Council and complete the tear-off slip contained within the leaflet.  However, if you are online, we would prefer you to respond via the consultation portal above.

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

A:

You can find out who your local ward councillor is and how to contact them, on the Council’s website at:
http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/6828/Who-is-my-councillor  or by calling Democratic Services on 01424 787814.

Q: Will anonymous responses be included?

A:

No. Each responder will have to provide their name, address and postcode to be included.

Q: What are the criteria by which options for the future will be judged?

A:

Government guidance indicates when undertaking such a review that criteria include:

  • a sense of civic pride and civic values;
  • a strong, inclusive community and voluntary sector;
  • a sense of place – with a positive feeling for people and local distinctiveness;
  • effective engagement with the local community at neighbourhood level
  • strong leadership;
  • the ability of local authorities to deliver quality services economically and efficiently; and
  • an area that is of a size that is viable as an administrative unit of local government.

Q: Who will Rother District Council consult with?

A:

Before making any recommendations or publishing final proposals, the council will take full account of the views of local people. The council will comply with the statutory consultative requirements by:

  • consulting local government electors within the area under review;
  • consulting any other person or body (including a local authority) which appears to the council to have an interest in the community governance review (e.g. East Sussex County Council and parish and town councils across the district); and
  • take into account any views received in connection with the community governance review.

Q: How will Rother District Council consult?

A:

In view of the extensive consultation exercise in 2017, the council is undertaking a light-touch consultation.  The council will use a range of consultation methods including an on-line questionnaire, letters and emails, a leaflet drop to all Bexhill-on-Sea residents, direct invitation, media releases, elected members and leaflets distributed across Bexhill-on-Sea and social media.

Q: When will I be able to respond to the community governance review?

A:

There is one chance for the public to contribute to the Bexhill Community Governance Review.  Consultation on the proposal to introduce a town council for Bexhill-on-Sea will take place between 21 February to 3 April 2020.

Q: Can the public come along and listen to the debates?

A:

Yes.  Meetings of the Community Governance Review Steering Group are open to the public.  Meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet and full Council are open to the public.

Q: Why is there not a referendum on this matter?

A:

Referendums come at considerable cost, which would have to be funded by the Council Tax payer; estimated costs for a referendum in Bexhill-on-Sea are in the region of £40,000.
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 Rother District Council is able to determine the outcome of the community governance review, without the need for a referendum.

Q: Can people aged under 18 take part in this consultation?

A:

Yes, there is no age limit.

Q: Can people who don’t live in Bexhill take part in the consultation?

A:

Yes, anyone with an interest in Bexhill can take part.  We ask for your name and address and won’t accept a response without it.  This means we can work out the answers of those who live in Bexhill, those who live in Rother and those who live elsewhere.

If you have any other questions on the process please email consultations@rother.gov.uk or write to the Council, drop in to one of our Community Help Points or ask your local councillor

Q: What is a town council?

A:

A town council is an elected body made up of local people representing the interests of their community.
The creation of a new town council within Bexhill-on-Sea would be in addition to and not instead of Rother District Council. Members currently elected to Rother District Council would be able to stand for election to a town council created within Bexhill-on-Sea.

Q: How are town councils funded?

A:

Along with parish and community councils, town councils are funded through a sum of money called a ‘precept’ – this is a separate charge which is added to and collected along with your existing council tax. The parish, town or community council will decide what it will need for the coming year depending on what services and facilities are needed by the local community. Parish and town councils can also apply for grants and loans.
In order to provide services a town council can raise funds through a precept or additional charge applied to Council Tax. The introduction of a town council will cost additional money to cover its running costs and the services the town council chooses to provide.

Q: How much does each option cost me as a tax payer?

A:

Based on current costs, if the decision was made for no change, Bexhill households would continue to pay 87p a year to fund the Bexhill Charter Trustees and £36.89 a year towards Bexhill Special Expenses. The contribution to Bexhill Special Expenses would continue to fund the following services specific to Bexhill:  Bexhill parks, Bexhill allotment sites (2); Christmas lighting; Bexhill Museum; bus shelters and the Bexhill Town Forum.
If the decision was made to introduce a Bexhill Town Council, Council Tax payers in Bexhill would pay approximately £59.87 a year towards Bexhill affairs.  Representing a Council Tax increase of £22.11 in the first year (based on a band D property).  This equates to about 42p per week towards its operation.  If you receive the maximum Council Tax reduction, this would be an extra 8p per week.  These figures will be less if you live in a smaller property.
The costs for a town council are approximate and based on the town council deciding to take over the provision and maintenance of the services provided by Bexhill Special Expenses:  parks, allotment sites (2), Christmas light, Bexhill Museum, bus shelters and possibly Bexhill Town Forum.  None of this is confirmed and would be a decision for the town council to make if introduced.

Q: Will Rother District Council and the Bexhill-on-Sea district councillors still exist if there is a Bexhill Town Council?

A:

Yes. There would be three levels of local government in Bexhill-on-Sea – the same as all rural towns and parishes across the district.

Q: Will a Bexhill Town Council be able to make decisions for Bexhill-on-Sea?

A:

A Bexhill Town Council will be able to make decisions about services that have been devolved to it.  The town council may add other additional services it wants to provide for the residents of Bexhill-on-Sea.  Rother District Council would continue to provide and make decisions about the remaining services to the residents of Bexhill-on-Sea, including responsibility for local planning decisions, licensing, waste collection, etc.  As a statutory consultee for planning decisions, the town council’s opinions are taken seriously by the district council’s Planning Committee.
Bexhill Town Council would also be able to influence decisions that affect Bexhill by representing the views of Bexhill residents to Rother District Council.

Q: What will happen to the Bexhill Town Forum if a town council is created?

A:

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 Bexhill Town Forum would cease.  It would be a matter for the new Bexhill Town Council to consider whether they wished to continue to fund the Bexhill Town Forum.

Q: What does a town council do?

A:

Parish, town and community councils are the same in terms of their powers and responsibilities, but a town council also elects a town mayor.  They are democratically elected bodies that have the power to do numerous things, including providing allotments, bus shelters, supporting local crime initiatives and local highway matters such as street lighting and maintenance of roadside verges.  They can be involved in provision of community transport schemes, sport and recreation facilities, and tourism. They can provide a focus for representing local issues and identity and are also consulted in planning applications in their area.
Any town council created for Bexhill as a result of this community governance review would work with Rother District Council to agree which services it would like to deliver.
A Bexhill Town Council does not replace Rother District Council.
Rother District Council would have to meet most of the costs of establishing a town council. The town council itself would then be responsible for meeting all its expenditure, including the cost of premises, staffing and providing services.

Q: How many town councillors would there be and who can become a town councillor?

A:

It is being recommended that a Bexhill Town Council should have 18 members across the current 9 Bexhill district council wards.  It is possible for the same people to be elected to the district council and a parish, town or community council.
To be able to stand as a candidate at a parish council election in England you must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • be a British citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of any member state of the European Union, and
  • meet at least one of the following four qualifications:
    a.   You are, and will continue to be, registered as a local government elector for the parish/community in which you wish to stand from the day of your nomination onwards.
    b.   You have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the parish/community area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.
    c.   Your main or only place of work during the 12 months prior to the day of your nomination and the day of election has been in the parish/community area.
    d.   You have lived in the parish/community area or within three miles of it during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.

Further information can be obtained from the Electoral Commission at the following link:
https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-01/Part%201%20Can%20you%20stand%20for%20election%20P%20and%20C.pdf (pdf)

Q: Will the Community Governance Review change Rother District Council electoral wards?

A:

No.  District ward boundaries are reviewed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).
This Community Governance Review does not have the power to change any district ward boundaries.

Q: Are town councillors paid an allowance?

A:

Parish and town councillors are not usually paid an allowance but may incur costs, which can be reimbursed.  Whether the town councillors are paid an allowance will be for the town council to decide, if established.

Q: Who are the Bexhill Charter Trustees?

A:

The Bexhill Charter Trustees comprise all 18 Rother district councillors who represent the wards in Bexhill. Once elected to Rother District Council, they automatically become a Bexhill Charter Trustee.
The role of the Trustees is purely ceremonial. They elect a mayor and deputy mayor each May and safeguard the traditions of the former Borough of Bexhill. They maintain the civic regalia and the “Town Plate”, which is a collection of gifts and artefacts that were donated to the town during its days as a borough.
The trustees meet formally on four occasions each year; they receive reports from the mayor and clerk, and they set an annual budget which covers the running cost of the trustees. The cost of the trustees is paid for solely by the residents of Bexhill, and the annual cost works out at 87p per annum per household.
The mayor of Bexhill represents the Charter Trustees at numerous functions each year (sometimes as many as 250) both within and outside of the town of Bexhill. Whilst neither he/she, nor the Bexhill Charter Trustees themselves have any “executive powers”, the mayor is seen as an extremely important person within the locality and brings a great sense of civic pride to all events which he/she attends.

Q: Why do some areas of Rother District Council have a Parish or Town Council, but others do not?

A:

The answer is largely historical.  Prior to the local government reorganisation in 1974  there was a Bexhill Borough Council.  When Rother District Council was created it became part of the larger district council and the Bexhill Charter Trustees were established.  Other local councils in the area retained their status as town councils, for example Battle and Rye.

Q: RDC pays over £500,000 a year to support the De La Warr Pavilion. Should a Bexhill Town Council be established, who would have responsibility for continuing to finance the de la Warr Pavilion and why?

A:

The De La Warr Pavilion is a regional arts and cultural venue supported by the Arts Council with regular funding. Therefore, this facility is a district-wide facility and not just a Bexhill cost.

Q: East Parade, Bexhill, improvements on the seafront, will these go ahead as proposed or would the project become the responsibility of Bexhill Town Council, if created?

A:

Rother District Council have applied for grant funding from a number of funding bodies, not least Heritage Lottery and Coastal Communities fund. These bids have been unsuccessful.  The refurbishment has not progressed as envisaged because it will require external funding.  But it will also depend on what assets, if any, are devolved.

Q: Will Rother District Council be paying for the Bexhill Town Council or paying for the town councillors?

A:

No, they are separate organisations.  Each council would receive their own funds for their own revenue budgets.   As a parish council, Bexhill Town Council will have a right to raise a precept on Council Tax so that it has an income to fund what it wants to do.  There would be some one-off cost to RDC to set up the town council in the first place.

Q: Will Council Tax payers in the rest of Rother, in rural Rother towns and villages, be paying to have a Bexhill Town Council?

A:

No, all the parish and town councils have their own budgets and fund their activities from their own Council Tax precept.  Bexhill Town Council would be the same.  There would be some cost to RDC to set up the town council but it won’t continue after the new council is in place.