Bid for vote to scrap all councils is thrown out

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A BID to stage an election-day vote on scrapping the current councils around Bognor Regis has failed.

Town centre resident Jan Cosgrove urged his fellow electors to support him in abolishing Arun District Council and the six existing Bognor area town and parish councils.

He wanted to replace them with a Bognor Regis Urban Town Council which would control every council service for the coastal urban area.

His resolution which called on Bognor Regis Town Council to take the matter forward was backed by most of the 20 or so town electors at Monday’s annual electors’ meeting.

It will be looked at by the town council in the summer. But he fell far short of the ten votes needed to demand a referendum on the single council idea should be held. Only four other electors backed him.

Mr Cosgrove said: “Arun District Council does not need to exist. Its functions can be done elsewhere.

“A unitary authority would be more coherent and it would have a bigger voice. Arun can’t ignore us if we demand a poll.

“It’s time to call a halt to the district council. It’s time to get rid of it. Arun has no sympathy or empathy for Bognor and we have none for it.”

Bognor should use the example of its fellow resort, Weston-super-Mare, which had one council for 71,000 residents, he said.

The only reason the Bognor area was served by a fragmented network of local councils was the law which limited them to areas of less than 25,000 residents when the town council was set up in 1985. That restriction has been lifted to 63,000 – about the same as the population in the Bognor urban area.

Mr Cosgrove said the ideal chance to hold the referendum in the four wards of Bognor – Hotham, Marine, Orchard and Pevensey – was on the May 7 general and council election day. He was frustrated his two previous One Bognor attempts, in 2012 and 2013, failed to produce a result despite being debated by the town council.

“Having six separate bits might be our historic burden but we don’t have to go on with it,” he said.

His ideas dated back to the Out of Arun campaign about 25 years ago which fizzled out after polls in the Bognor town area and four surrounding parishes backed the idea because it was impossible to progress it.

Town and district councillor Jim Brooks (I, Marine) said it would cost about £8,000 to hold the poll which the council would have to pay.

Fellow councillor Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “I have sympathy with what Jan Cosgrove is saying. There is a lot of frustration out there but Arun will laugh us down the drain because they can.

“The only way to make change at Arun is to go out on election day and make a difference by voting.”

Cllr Sandra Daniells (I, Pevensey) said: “I need to know a lot more about this. You can’t just abolish a council. The work of Arun would have to carry on.”

Cllr Roger Nash (L, Pevensey) said it was clear Mr Cosgrove had support. But he said: “We have got to make sure what replaces Arun is better than what we have got now.”