Free speech charter launched as top Tory warns of new secret ‘rules’ meeting

Stop secrets
Stop secrets

A Free Speech Charter has been launched in the current County Times newspaper - aimed at encouraging councillors and political parties to commit to the principles of free speech at Horsham District Council.

It’s the next step in our ‘STop Secret’ campaign.

The Charter - which will coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta in 2015 - will highlight and commend those politicians that guarantee to speak, write, and vote on behalf of their residents without fear or favour of party discipline.

It follows public outrage at the treatment of Conservative vice chairman Christian Mitchell who was deselected in a ‘three line whip’ vote by his Tory colleagues as chairman elect for speaking out on behalf of his constituents over the North Horsham development proposals.

But as the County Times campaigns for a more open and accountable council, an end to political whipping and political approval of councillors’ letters, the ruling Tory clique at HDC seem determined to forge ahead with its secret meetings governed by a tight set of rules.

Writing exclusively in the County Times, Mr Mitchell says that on Monday another private meeting of the Tory group has on its agenda a need for a further reaffirmation of its Rules and ‘discussion and agreement on any action regarding any agreed breach’ of them.

“And this comes at a time when we as a council and we as a Conservative group have a burgeoning ‘in-tray’. There simply isn’t the luxury of time to devote to such machinations which would be more at home in a Students’ Union,” he will say in a full-page feature article.

“The fate of the bowls club under the otherwise commendable Broadbridge Health leisure plans is of vital interest to hundreds of residents.

“They have written to this newspaper in their droves. They have my wholehearted support.

“However, bowls club members will be denied hearing the real decision-making debate about their future under the status quo where decisions are taken by the cabinet – a broken system for local government - and presented to members in the group as a fait accompli. And like the debate over the future of the green fields in North Horsham the result is that real public debate is extinguished and those that vote against a decision at a council meeting face the threat of expulsion from the group.

“For democracy to prevail, it must not just be done but it must - like justice - be seen to be done.”

The Lib Dems and UKIP have always sought to avoid whipped votes.

Read his article in full and show your support for the Free Speech Charter - only in the County Times newspaper.