Residents’ group in a bid to take on council

A CONCERTED bid to wrest control of the ballot box for residents across the Arun district has been launched this week.

The Arun District Residents’ Association has announced its intention to contest seats in the next district council elections.

The group has been formed from the Bognor Regis and District Residents’ Association which, as reported, wants to take the politics out of Arun District Council with a host of independent members.

Those behind the group made the decision to widen its scope because of what they said was interest in its motives from outside the town.

Hugh Coster, of ARDA, said there was a need for an alternative to the current political groupings.

“Voters often vote locally according to their party preference at national level, paying little attention to their council’s actual record,” he said.

“As a result, underperforming councils and their councillors are rarely held to account for their performance.

“Councillors can be voted in time after time, simply because of the colour of the rosette they wear.
We want to offer voters a real practical alternative. There is no reason why voters cannot vote Conservative nationally and vote differently at local level.”

The next election for Arun will be in May 2015. That will mark 42 years since the Conservatives took control of the district council when it was formed.

The residents’ group wants the local party to be held to account for its record of unbroken leadership.

It is seeking independently-minded people to stand as candidates in the elections.

The only over-riding principle for those selected will be they seek value for taxpayers’ money and that elected councillors must be guided by and respond to the wishes of their constituents.

The association also hopes to persuade Liberal Democrat, Labour and UKIP candidates to work with it to avoid the risk of vote-splitting among opponents to the Conservatives.

Tony Dixon, of ADRA, said the time was right for residents to reclaim control through the ballot box. He said a national survey showed the gross weekly wage for those working in Arun in 2010 was £399 – the lowest of the seven councils in West Sussex.

“This compares to a West Sussex average of £479 and a south-east average of £523. The national average is £500.

“Arun ranks 66 out of 67 local authorities in south-east England when it comes to the ratio of jobs to population aged 16-64.

“Low wage levels create an unacceptably high level of outbound commuting.”

There were also about 4,900 households on Arun’s housing needs register in February 2012.

More than 1,000 were in priority need. “It is a poor record,” said 
Mr Dixon.