LETTER: Councillors must have a free vote

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Horsham District Council deputy leader and cabinet member, councillor Helena Croft, has personally co-ordinated the spending of £665,000 of taxpayers’ money on ‘improvements’ to West Street.

The only difference that I can see is that the nice green cast iron bins have been replaced by cheap looking stainless steel ones that are already looking years old, the tops covered with cigarette ash.

The other street furniture that’s been removed such as the cast iron and wooden benches, which matched the two cast iron signposts have, no doubt, been chucked on the scrap heap.

They blended in so well with the Victorian architecture of the buildings in West Street in a way that the modern aluminium stuff just doesn’t.

But I guess that’s what leader councillor Ray Dawe and his cabinet would call ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ – just as they call building a 500,000 sq ft industrial park in North Horsham and obliterating 15 per cent of our ‘green belt’ between Horsham and Crawley, ‘progress’.

What I do find of concern is quite why councillor Croft, the cabinet member for communications, wishes to install in the spring of next year a permanent ‘sound system’ in West Street.

There’s already CCTV covering West Street with officers watching us; but why do we need a PA system for officers to talk at us? Again frivolous waste of public money, like the repaving of West Street and change of street furniture for the worse. Such actions contribute to claims of financial need dire enough to hand over the greenfields north of Horsham to a developer.

I wholeheartedly agree with Shelia White’s letter (21.11.13) who wrote in this paper that residents have the impression that decisions are being taken behind closed doors by a small clique of councillors who are then coercing backbench members to agree with a decision that has already been taken.

This is highlighted no better than the unilateral decision by the cabinet member for planning, councillor Claire Vickers’, decision to ride roughshod over the council’s existing policy decision of holding her Planning Advisory Groups (PPAG) in public. She ignored that policy which was voted upon by 44 democratically elected councillors in September 2011.

It pains me to say that this secretive council, as the Horsham Society described it recently in this paper (‘Failings and secrecy at Horsham council’, 10.10.13) reminds me increasingly of George Orwell’s seminal book, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

So, just what is this PA system in West Street going to be used for then, deputy leader councillor Croft?

For HDC’s Ministry of Truth to bark orders down the microphone at backbench members, as they shop, commanding them not to break the Conservative Party whip and to vote in support of North Horsham and the building of a new settlement the size of Southwater?

But who is Horsham’s answer to the fictional protagonist, Winston Smith? For on such an important matter as our 20 year District Housing Plan all 44 elected councillors must have a free vote and vote with their conscience and not in the way that Big Brother wants them to.

I. ROHVARGER (Mrs)

B.E.S( Urban planning and architecture), B. Arch, Pondtail Road, Horsham