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  • The Rother Alliance

A Year in the Chair

Written by Cllr Terry Byrne, outgoing Chair of Rother District Council.

In May last year I had the honour of being elected to represent the voters of the Sackville ward of Bexhill as an independent member of Rother District Council. After the elections, no one party had enough councillors to form a single party administration and so, after discussions between the various group and party leaders, the Rother Alliance was formed. This included Independents, Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Green Party. It was my delight to be offered the position of Chair of the Council.

At first I felt that I had been relegated to a role that just involved wearing a large silver chain (which, I might say, is quite heavy), shaking hands with lots of people and having my photograph taken with just about everybody. However, when I looked at the role in more detail I realised it was much more than that.

As chair, as well as chairing meetings of the full council, I also get to sit on any committee I choose in an Ex-Officio capacity. That means that I can contribute to committee debates but i don't get to vote on the outcome. This gave me the chance to get a rather privileged overview of how the Alliance was working. Were the meetings full of faction fighting and party flag waving or did the fact that we now had a broad spectrum of Councillors make for lively and constructive debates? Happily the latter proved to be true. At all the committee meetings that I attended there were informed and valuable contributions from all members and the factional ways of previous administrations were no longer apparent.

As for the ceremonial part of the Chair's role, that proved to be both informative and rewarding. As well as meeting the High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant of the county, I got to meet and mingle with the mayors and chairs of most of the neighbouring authorities. At some of these gatherings there were more heavy gold and silver chains than you would find at a Hip-Hop convention. They were all curious to know how things were going in Rother given the rather seismic change as a result of the May 2019 elections. I was more than happy to report that things are working well.

I also attended events that honoured the achievements of youth groups, voluntary organisations, church groups, charities etc. In some ways, this was the best part of the job. I was awoken to the fact that, amidst all the doom and gloom of news reports that we all encounter every day, there are in fact hundreds, probably thousands of people who are doing their best to make their lives and the lives of those around them better in any way they can.

Of course, I could never have predicted that my year as chair would end as it has, with widespread hardship for residents and businesses, the suspension of meetings and a nationwide lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The coming year will, of necessity, be one of reappraisal and, I hope, one of recovery and regeneration. I sincerely hope that my successor will continue to preside over lively multi-party discussions and debates and I wish them good luck and good judgement.

-- Cllr Terry Byrne, outgoing Chair of Rother District Council.

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