Horsham council communications post ‘forward-thinking’

THE NEW cabinet position at Horsham District Council intends to make council business ‘more transparent and accessible’ to the public, says the new chief.

Upon his election as leader of the council last week, Ray Dawe’s (Con, Chantry) first job was to appoint his cabinet.

He chose to bring two new councillors into the team and created a new portfolio of communications, special projects and Horsham town.

In his first speech as leader at the full council meeting, Mr Dawe made clear the creation of a new post would be of no extra cost to the taxpayer.

He said: “There will be no additional costs to the council as a result of the creation of the additional post as the members of the proposed cabinet have agreed to reduce their allowances to ensure that the total budget for cabinet members’ allowances remains the same.”

He appointed Helena Croft (Con, Roffey North) to be responsible for the new portfolio. Sue Rogers (Con, Steyning) becomes cabinet for a safer and healthier district.

Both women only joined the council after the May 2011 local elections.

Ms Croft said: “I feel it’s a really good forward-thinking move and it’s reflective of the electorate to have two women in the cabinet.

“Sue and I aren’t there because we are women, but because of our skill sets.

“We are younger, we are female and it’s a great team. It brings some balance.”

Ms Croft said her limited experience on the district council would be an advantage when looking at communications.

“Being a new member, one of the things in any well-established organisation is getting used to the jargon,

“This is an opportunity to talk through how we can ‘de-jargon’ council documents, not because people are stupid, but to make it more simple and more accessible.

“I have lived in my ward, Roffey for 21 years and I carry the heartbeat of the community because I’ve been involved in the community for 21 years.

“It brings a fresh approach, new ideas and it’s a bold choice taking us in.”

Mr Dawe insisted it would not politicise the external communication of the council.

“There has always been a cabinet member responsible for communication, but it’s always been the responsibility of the leader.

“It’s not an intention to make communication political, but to make it more open and as transparent as possible.”

Ms Croft’s role will also entail looking at the future of Horsham town.

Mr Dawe said: “I am concerned that we have lots of different initiatives and visions in Horsham town which the council has been working on, however what I would like Helena to do is look at what Horsham might look like in ten or 15 years time and pull all those strands together.”

Ms Croft said: “I am Horsham’s biggest fan.

“I want to look at how we can make it more exclusive and more something people outside the region want to visit.”

Mrs Rogers is the new cabinet member for a safer and healthier district, responsible for health and safety, housing and homelessness, environmental health and work by the anti-social behaviour team.

After her appointment, she said: “It’s quite a wide and challenging portfolio and one I am looking forward to.

“It’s really exciting and I feel really pleased to be given this opportunity.

“I have been on Steyning Parish Council for six years and I am working with some really great officers and touching people in really important times of their lives, for example homelessness and issues regarding safety.”

Roger Arthur (Con, Chanctonbury), will be the new deputy leader and take the role of cabinet member for efficiency and taxation, previously held by Mr Dawe.

All the other cabinet members will continue in their current roles.

At Wednesday’s meeting Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar), who is currently vice-chairman, was elected chairman for 2012-13, and Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) was elected vice-chairman.