LETTER: Situation at HDC is disgraceful

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Councillor Dawe has the effrontery to suggest that being a Horsham District Councillor (HDC) is part of a democratic system (County Times 20/03/14).

That despite the mounting evidence that ‘democracy’ at HDC is restricted to doing what Cllr Ray Dawe and his group want, and voting their way or risk being thrown out of the Party as demonstrated by their appalling treatment of Vice-Chairman Christian Mitchell.

Cllr Dawe wrote: “Councils throughout the country work on a basis where the largest grouping formulates and puts forward policy.” Clearly, that is what is happening at HDC and that is where it all starts to go badly wrong.

HDC’s Constitution makes no mention of such a basis of working. On the contrary, the Constitution makes clear ‘The overriding duty of councillors is to the whole community but they have a special duty to their constituents’.

Local elections should be about people not politics, and certainly not party politics. Residents do not expect their elected representative to be relegated simply because they are not members of what happenstance determines is the largest party.

There is no requirement or place for party politics and there is nothing in the Conservative party manifesto or policies that is applicable or relates to a way of working or determination of an effective strategy for our community.

Alas even Cllr Dawe’s admission that unless a councillor is part of the ‘largest grouping’ they will be undemocratically excluded from formulating and putting forward policy is far from the actuality. In practice, important business and decisions are made exclusively by an oligarchy of just eight (out of 44) councillors who each receive £6,525 on top of their basic £4,665 a year.

Cllr Dawe can even shun that sham of a democracy - the Horsham Society has just reported that Cllr Dawe wrote to the Airports Commission in connection with a second runway at Gatwick - without even consulting the council.

As we have seen played out before our eyes, any Horsham councillor who seeks to represent the best interests of residents, irrespective of party politics and personal agendas, risks the wrath of theleadership.

That is the way Cllr Dawe runs HDC. It is a disgraceful situation, which is bringing the council into disrepute and damaging the short and long-term interests of the whole community.

If (and it’s a big ‘if’) Cllr Dawe and his acolytes do the right thing; obtain unbiased evidence first, consult, give genuine consideration to what others have to say, produce a strategy which is based on sound evidence, which is in the long term interest of the community as a whole, and communicate fully and openly with residents; then all could be well.

Failing that, if a Scrutiny and Overview Committee (horsham.gov.uk/files/Constitution_Part_4C.pdf) cannot effect change then perhaps we need a public petition (horsham.gov.uk/files/Part_4J.pdf).

C Morris

Tennyson Close, Horsham