‘Undemocratic’ winding up of CLCs is a ‘travesty’, says Felpham councillor

“It is a travesty that shows up the non democratic way this is being dealt with.”

Friday, 9th July 2021, 10:51 am

That is the message from Arun district councillor Paul English who said there has been a lack of consultation on plans to replace the 11 County Local Committees with online County Local Forums where questions can be asked of county councillors.

The proposal was discussed at a county council governance committee meeting on June 28 and goes to full council on July 16 for confirmation.

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “Consultation on the proposals was carried out prior to this with all county councillors, town and parish councillors and with Arun District Council.

Felpham district and parish councillor Paul English
Felpham district and parish councillor Paul English

“The feedback from this consultation, including that from Arun, was considered by the committee at the meeting on June 28.”

Mr English (Con, Felpham), who is also a Felpham parish councillor, said residents and councillors had had their democratic right removed and a number of Arun councillors he had spoken to knew nothing of the plans.

“It’s a disgrace that many councillors and councils were not consulted and as these were set up as joint committees in Arun the residents should have had a say,” he said.

“Part of this committee was a highways and transport group that looked at the issues in Arun, that will also go without any voice being heard.

“I am astounded at the terrible non consultation that has occurred. It is a travesty that shows up the non democratic way this is being dealt with.

“Not only were no virtual meeting ever held nor residents given the opportunity to question actions by WSCC of which there were many over the last year, officers and members have ensured no one has had the chance to speak on the subject.

“How on earth can a governance committee do this on such a poor consultation?”

He said information about the plan was put out through a newsletter to town and parish councils that most people never see or through ‘talk with us’ sessions which people didn’t know about.

He would not have complained but when he heard hundreds of residents in Felpham had not received consultation letters about the A259, as reported in last week’s Observer, it was ‘the final straw’.

“There are all these cut backs happening behind closed doors – grass cutting, the tips closing and then having to book a slot, the CLCs being finished – and nobody is being consulted,” he said.

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “West Sussex County Council’s Governance Committee, at its meeting on 28 June, endorsed plans for a new approach for councillors to engage with local residents and community groups about local issues. These would replace County Local Committees (CLCs).

“The proposals will now be considered by the county council at its meeting on July 16.

“Consultation on the proposals was carried out prior to this with all county councillors, town and parish councillors and with Arun District Council.

“The feedback from this consultation, including that from Arun, was considered by the committee at the meeting on June 28.

“In addition, the report to the committee included the feedback from earlier consultation on CLCs carried out during 2020 (with the same groups) when ideas were first being developed.

“CLC meetings have not taken place at all since March 2020, due to the impact of the pandemic on local meetings but there has been no correspondence from the public about them.

“The new approach will include opportunities for residents to meet and ask questions of their local county councillors.

“The governance committee will look at details of the new approach at its meeting in September, to include how others such as district/borough and town/parish councils may be involved.

“It is hoped they will be seen as more flexible and accessible by everyone interested in the council’s work and plans and how they may affect their local area.

“Details of the proposal considered by the committee are in the report and the appendix (which set out consultation responses).

“Please note that further comments were received following publication of these papers, with a total of 14 town/parish councils providing feedback. “Of these, 11 explicitly supported the proposal to replace CLCs with more flexible, informal arrangements.”