LETTER: Nothing secret about discussions

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Following last week’s article on the so-called secret meetings held by Horsham District Council, I thought that in the interests of balance I would write this letter to put forward an alternative point of view.

Like Councillor Connor Relleen, quoted at length in last week’s article, I am also a Conservative councillor newly elected in May this year. I represent Denne Ward in Horsham. I should start by saying that I do not recognise the picture painted by the article and nor do I agree with the views expressed by Councillor Relleen.

As a newly elected councillor, it takes time to get up to speed with the workings of the council and I would not expect to know, right from the outset, all of the various mechanisms of working that make up council processes.

When newly elected in May, I was also unaware of all of the Advisory Groups but this was inexperience not conspiracy. To learn about these mechanisms it is necessary to participate, be involved, attend meetings and learn about the role of a councillor.

I currently sit on nine different Advisory Groups as well as the Licensing Committee, the Accounts, Audit and Governance Committee and Development Control – North which is a planning committee. I attend as many of the meetings as possible in order to develop my understanding of how the council works.

An important point to remember is that Advisory Groups are not decision making forums. They have no executive powers. Rather obviously, the role of an Advisory Group is to advise the relevant Cabinet Member. Nothing more. Participation in these Advisory Groups makes the decision-making process very transparent. I know that Councillor Relleen is a member of only two Advisory Groups and thus attends very few of these kind of meetings and so this may explain his lack of understanding.

According to the article, apparent evidence of these so-called secret meetings comes from the fact that some councillors seemed not to know about the Development Management Advisory Group (DMAG) and the Property Investment Advisory Group (PIAG). Although a new councillor, I was aware of both of these groups even though I don’t sit on either.

The groups are open and transparent. Councillor David Skipp, the Lib Dem Group Leader, is a member of both groups so these are not functions of a secret Conservative cabal. Moreover, Councillors David Skipp and Leonard Crosbie (Lib Dem) are both members of what the article referred to as a steering group chaired by leader, Ray Dawe. Again, not so secret, after all.

All Advisory Groups will now produce agendas and notes of meetings so that all members (whether they are participants in a particular Advisory Group or not) and all members of the public will be able to access these documents online and see for themselves that there is nothing secret about anything being discussed.

It is easy not to engage and so claim that there is a secret conspiracy going on. But as a new councillor I believe that it is important to participate, to learn and to develop.

If those feeling left-out focus on this, they may find they know more than they do at present.

ADRIAN M. LEE

(Con, Denne Ward) Horsham District Council, Chart Way, Horsham

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