Tory council leader defends absence of town councillors in his cabinet

Council leader Ray Dawe defended the composition of his cabinet
Council leader Ray Dawe defended the composition of his cabinet

The Conservative leader of Horsham District Council has defended his decision not to include any town councillors in his cabinet.

Roy Cornell, who represents Roffey South, resigned from his position as cabinet member for waste, recycling, and cleansing last week.

Although she has taken up a different role, the vacancy has been filled by Tricia Youtan, one of two councillors for Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham.

The move not to have any town councillors in the cabinet has been branded ‘disgraceful’ by Horsham resident John Steele, while the Lib Dem council group leader David Skipp felt the changes strengthened the argument for a town council.

Currently the town is served by North Horsham Parish Council and the unparished area by three neighbourhood councils: Forest, Denne, and Trafalgar.

But Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of the council, said: “Council members serve not only their local areas but are concerned about all communities across the whole of Horsham.

“The new cabinet is evenly divided between those representing the northern part of the district and those who represent the southern villages.

“Our district’s population is also fairly equally divided.

“Having said that, as there is a large concentration of population in Horsham town and the council offices are there, it has long been the case that the town area tends to receive more attention both in terms of staff time and the involvement of members than other areas across the district.

“There has recently been the town centre vision exhibition, seeking views on the future for Horsham town centre and this is being taken forward by the cabinet.

“We also work closely with the town’s neighbourhood councils and the Horsham Society.

“The council operates an ‘open door’ policy so that any member representing the town (or indeed any other ward) with any particular concern is always able to make his or her views known to me or the chief executive.

“I am fully confident that the town will continue to receive the same high level of support and have the same strong voice in the council’s activities.

“Roy Cornell gave various reasons for resigning.

“Primarily he feels that over the two years or so he has been a cabinet member for waste and recycling he has been involved in some important decisions about the future of the service.

“However, he believes that as the service becomes more high profile with the introduction of new waste vehicles and changes to encourage more recycling and less dependence on residual waste, the time is ripe to hand over to someone with stronger media skills and who will be best equipped for doing that.”

Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) has been appointed as the new cabinet member for waste and recycling.

But Mr Steele said: “There is not a single councillor representing a Horsham town seat. Well over a third of the electorate of Horsham district do not have a voice in cabinet.

“This is disgraceful.”

Meanwhile Dr Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park) added: ‘‘My opinion is that the town should have a town council which would represent the residents with the same structure and powers as a parish council, but whilst HDC is controlled by a massive Conservative majority the appointment of cabinet members is down to the leader.

“The sad point is that Lib Dem town councillors who know the town well and have lived here for many years have very little say in what happens in the town.

“If the residents wish to have change then they can vote accordingly in the next local election in two years time but the reality at the moment is that the cabinet is composed of south of the district councillors. Residents will have to draw their own conclusions.”