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  • The Rother Alliance

One Year On - the success of the Rother Alliance

In May 2019, following a seismic local election result, 13 Independent Councillors, 7 Liberal Democrat Councillors, 3 Labour Councillors and 1 Green Party Councillor agreed to join together in coalition to replace the Conservative administration that had controlled Rother for 20 years and form a new ruling group on Rother District Council; the Rother Alliance.

In other parts of the country, political groups this diverse may have struggled to work together but very quickly, a shared vision was established which was welcomed by all and thus led to the 24 councillors forming a new administration.

In the first meeting of the new council, it was clear that the once dusty chambers of the Town Hall had been uplifted by a palpable energy, a new direction for the people of Rother and an end to the “don’t bother with Rother” days that had mired the council’s past administration. A Community Governance Review was enacted to fulfil the shared election pledge to establish a Bexhill Town Council, and a Climate Emergency was declared across Rother with a commitment to create a bold Environmental Policy which would see the council and district become carbon neutral by 2030.

Since that meeting, the Rother Alliance has continued to review the way things are done and deliver bold, progressive policies to take the district forward to a brighter future. This includes setting up a new housing company in order to better meet the need for social housing and reforming the planning committee so that parish councillors and members of the public can speak to the committee about an application without the need for a petition. Also, after 52 years of inaction from previous councils, the outline plans for Blackfriars – a site in Battle fit for 220 new homes, 35% affordable – were finally agreed as well as the new road leading to it with a £9m grant from Homes England.

The Rother Alliance has also been working hard to assess the financial position of Rother and balance the budget with careful cost saving measures and a review of past actions, such as the money spent on the Colonnade and the poor management of the Bexhill seafront fountains which has led to expensive repair costs. One recent triumph was the review into the £330k wastefully committed by the previous administration to a new car park in Camber which has since been reviewed and will now be undertaken for just £46k, one of many examples of the new administration working with Rother officers to deliver better value for money to the taxpayer. The Community Infrastructure Levy regime is to be reviewed with a proposal for councillors to make the decisions as to where the funds are to be spent, ensuring effective use. In addition, a review in line with the new adopted Procurement Policy.

As part of the Overview and Scrutiny programme, an anti-poverty task group was set up to assess how to better protect the poorest in our communities. This group will serve an important role, following the fallout from Covid-19.

In Bexhill, the Town Centre Steering Group has been revitalised to develop a much-needed master plan for the future of Bexhill Town Centre. Elsewhere in Rother, connections with Parish Councils have been strengthened with Cabinet members attending Parish Council meetings and the re-introduction of the Rural Parish Council Conference aimed at bringing together the important local voices from parish councils strengthening local knowledge and maintaining the important connection between Rother District Council and its parishes.

The Alliance has also taken remarkable steps towards increased transparency with all public meetings now being audio recorded, the imminent installation of video cameras for live streaming meetings, the much needed update to the council’s website making services much more accessible and the launch of the Rother Alliance’s very own website, designed to keep residents directly informed. As well as this, many Rother Alliance councillors have built vibrant and active social media presences and are engaging in regular advice surgeries. Transparency, accessibility and communication are key to effective governing, being a core part of the Alliance’s ways of working.

Significant outreach has been undertaken to better deliver for younger people, including the re-establishment of the Bexhill Youth Council, the introduction of a Youth Organisation Summit, support for the Active Rother scheme and the involvement of local young people in the design and planning of the Sidley skatepark project. As well as outreach to the older generations with accessible sports activities such as the promotion of tricycling and the installation of a petanque court.

This is just a smattering of the bold progress the Alliance has achieved in their first year and it surely paves the way for more positive improvements to the way things are done. No doubt the current pandemic will have a significant effect on the future of the district and tough decisions will have to be made along the way, but with a bold and dynamic coalition of local, active and compassionate councillors leading the charge, the district will recover.

We have already seen the incredible effort councillors have put in to helping the community during this crisis, with Alliance councillors at the forefront of the local effort right from the start, supporting the Bexhill Emergency Action Team and its rural counterpart Helping Hands, connecting residents and local businesses with key services to give them the assistance they need.

Residents of Rother can rest assured that we will get through this crisis, progress will continue and with the Rother Alliance at the helm, the future will be bright.

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Working together works.


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