BREAKING NEWS: Future council chairman Tricia Youtan signs Free Speech Charter

Tricia Youtan HDC member for Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham
Tricia Youtan HDC member for Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham

Tricia Youtan, who is expected to be council chairman in just over a year’s time, today (Wednesday April 2) confirmed she would be signing the County Times’ Free Speech Charter.

Mrs Youtan, who represents Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham on Horsham District Council was first elected in 2011.

She made the decision despite persistent suggestions that members of the Tory group had been told not to make the commitment.

It means that the current council vice chairman Christian Mitchell, the immediate past chairman Leonard Crosbie, and the future vice chairman Mrs Youtan have all signed.

The current chairman Philip Circus spoke passionately about free speech and a free press when he opened the County Times’ offices in the summer but has yet to comment on the Charter.

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 1) Lib Dem, UKIP, Independent, and some Conservatives signed up in a special ceremony at the County Times’ offices.

Brad Watson OBE a distinguished West Sussex county councillor and chairman of the Horsham Conservative Association and fellow county councillor Liz Kitchen, who is also a Horsham district councillor and former leader, both added their support.

Mr Watson made clear he was supporting the Charter in a personal capacity rather than as association chairman.

His deputy chairman (political) Simon Torn had also made a personal commitment to the Charter and along with the party’s youngest councillor Josh Murphy, and Peter Burgess. John Bailey and now Mrs Youtan have also indicated their clear support.

The council’s Conservative vice chairman Christian Mitchell was the first to add his signature in the morning.

Earlier, the County Times offices had been awash with politicians.

Lib Dem councillors at both county and district have made the Charter pledge along with all UKIP councillors on both authorities.

Their representatives turned out in force for huge signing sessions in the newspapers’ offices at 10.30am.

They were joined by Independent candidates Nik Butler, Martin Dale, and Richard Symonds.

Mr Watson said: “I represent the people of my division to the best of my ability in their best interests and that’s why I’m there to make a difference and hopefully over the years I have made a difference for the better.”

Mr Watson has served on West Sussex County Council since 2001 and was a Horsham district councillor from the mid 1970s to 1991.

He is also the chairman of WSCC’s North Horsham County Local Committee.

Mrs Kitchen, a councillor for Rusper and Colgate, said: “I have no problem with signing it.

“You have laid down the challenge and I’m more than happy to pick up that challenge.

“I fully support what you are doing but personally I’m only doing what I have always done.”

The Charter has been launched in response to claims that the ruling Tory group at Horsham whip votes, make key decisions in secret group meetings, and vet letters and articles sent to the County Times.

It follows the unprecedented deselection of Mr Mitchell as chairman elect in a whipped vote. He said he had paid the price for articulating his residents’ concerns about massive development in North Horsham.

The Charter states: “I undertake to speak, write and vote on behalf of my constituents without fear or favour of party discipline. If I am a member of a political party, I will respect its values and honour its pre-election manifesto pledges - but I will always put first the people I am elected to serve.”

For full stories and exclusive comment, read tomorrow printed West Sussex County Times.