‘Final parting of the ways’ between parish council and community partnership

EYE project artists' impression (photo submitted). SUS-151210-135404001

EYE project artists' impression (photo submitted). SUS-151210-135404001

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‘Irrevocable differences’ which are ‘detrimental’ to Billingshurst are behind the village’s parish council’s decision to cut ties with the community partnership.

At a Billingshurst Parish Council meeting on Wednesday November 4, councillors agreed to support Lesley Wilding’s proposal to disassociate from Billingshurst Community Partnership with immediate effect.

Six members voted to split from the community partnership, while four voted against the proposal.

In response to the decision, Denise Campbell, chair of Billingshurst Community Partnership, told the County Times: “It is business as usual, we will continue working on community projects and continue working with all our partners in the same way as we have always done.

“We are not in a position to comment on why the parish council has decided to split from us because we have not been informed.

“We are trying to understand those reasons and are waiting for the parish council to contact us with those reasons.”

During the meeting, Mrs Wilding, vice chairman of the council, said the divide between the organisations is ‘ever widening’, according to the minutes.

She added that the emails sent by the community partnership sent ‘as a lobbying mechanism’ for the EYE Project - a proposed youth and education centre in the village - are ‘frankly outrageous’.

She resolved there should be a ‘final parting of the ways’ with immediate effect.

At the meeting, Fiona Lockhart signed her resignation as the council’s representative on the partnership, and handed it to the partnership’s representative.

Barry Barnes took an opposing view. He said it is ‘sad’ to see the proposal and questioned why the organisations could not put past mistakes behind them.

Ms Lockhart then gave her apologies and left the meeting.

Andrew Pearson said he did not want to be part of an ‘angry council’ and suggested members should forgive and forget.

Sue Kingston acknowledged some partnership members have ‘worked a long time for the benefit of Billingshurst’, but accused the group of a ‘lack of respect’ and supported the disassociation.

Chairman of the council Paul Berry agreed. However, he said that while the divorce has been described as final, ‘many go on to have a better relationship after divorce’.

In an email, John Griffin, the vice chairman of the community partnership, had asked the council to defer the decision until December.

This was proposed by Mr Barnes, but was rejected by seven votes to three.

Mrs Wilding then proposed the split, which was agreed.

In a press release, the parish council said: “Earlier this year, the parish council resolved that it no longer wished to be a full member of the partnership and notified Billingshurst Community Partnership Limited that it wished to terminate its membership.

“The Parish Council asked to become an affiliate member of the Partnership in a similar arrangement to West Sussex County Council and Horsham District Council who attend meetings of the partnership, but have no voting rights.”

The press release continued: “The council wished for your readers to be appraised of the council’s decision directly from the council so that there is no misinformation about this decision.

“The council’s decision not to be a member of Billingshurst Community Partnership Limited will have no impact on the council’s involvement with community organisations. Billingshurst Parish Council has representation on a number of organisations within the parish and hopes to continue to do so.”

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