COMMENT: Cabinet sacking threats over North Horsham unacceptable

Parkside, HQ of Horsham District Council
Parkside, HQ of Horsham District Council

Lenny Henry might have been creating national headlines for forgetting his words in Educating Rita at Chichester.

But the real theatrical drama of the week was taking place in the district council chamber at Horsham.

With a landslide majority in the May elections, the Tories should be able to sail ahead with their agenda. They have 39 or the 44 seats - and the five they do not possess are owned by the most reasonable of local people.

Instead, on their flagship policy of major development in North Horsham as part of the district’s development plan, they once again indulged in the most extraordinary row.

A motion to abandon the plan put forward by Tory backbenchers from Horsham town nearly won through - it lost 19 to 24, a margin of a mere five.

In the process, cabinet member Andrew Baldwin stole the show by dramatically resigning his post claiming the leader Ray Dawe had threatened him with the sack if he didn’t toe the line.

To add to the chaos, the Chairman of the council Tricia Youtan backed the rebels’ motion.

Now Mrs Youtan is one of the most respected members of both the chamber and the district. She is already proving an amazingly adept chairman and one who is winning praise and plaudits from all quarters. Not least from the County Times.

What she says should always be taken seriously.

Mr Baldwin is a long serving cabinet member - and was the last representative from Horsham town. He would not have taken such a stand if he did not feel he had been pushed beyond acceptable limits.

We have said many times, the Tory group is two groups at Horsham. Those that represent the town with strength and determination to put the interests of their residents first.

And those who are elected by the downland villages. We do not doubt they are any less committed to the people who chose them to sit in the chamber.

But it is simply unacceptable to have one group pushing the other around with threats and punishments.

A year ago, Christian Mitchell faced a secret court for backing his constituents on the local plan and was then stripped of his chairman elect role.

Now Mr Baldwin says he has faced the chop if he doesn’t conform.

The district council needs a leader who can unite both sides; who can publicly show he or she accepts a broad range of views and wants to work toward a consensus. This is not Westminster. It is a tiny council which is supposed to serve the people.

The cabinet should comprise all shades of opinion, especially those who are outspoken and determined.

That way, real progress can be made to continue improve the quality of life for all, keep down council tax, and develop plans that do not offend one geographic sector of the electorate or another.

Jeremy Quin, although a newcomer, is already proving himself to be a huge asset to the Horsham constituency as its new MP.

He brings with him a wealth of commonsense, intelligence, and determination to make the lives of local people even better. We are hugely impressed.

Perhaps he can knock some sense into the heads of those who seek to lead our small council - and make it great again.