Queen Anne Rides Roughshod Over Local Councillors
22nd September 2014
A new community bus service in Burgess Hill has caused great controversy with minority councillors accusing Town Mayor Anne Jones and the Conservative party of using the initative for political gain and a gross abuse of power.
The new route - serving the town centre - will be run by the Bluebird Community Partnership. It replaces the one devastatingly dropped by Metro Bus earlier in the year. Many elderly and disabled people have faced great difficulty in accessing the town centre on a regular basis since its withdrawal.
To get word out of this new service, Burgess Hill Town Council produced over 1,000 fliers which needed to be delivered to residents in the Chanctonbury Road and Hammonds Ridge areas of town.
Meeds ward councillors Janice Henwood (Lib Dem) and Janet Smith (Labour) both volunteered to deliver the fliers to their constituents, only there was one slight problem...... Town Mayor Anne Jones went to the council offices, allegedly swiped ALL the fliers and distributed them to Conservative party councillors to deliver.
Matters were made worse on Friday evening with Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames posting the following photo and message on Twitter...
Needless to say this didn't go down well with the other political parties.
Lib Dem spokesman Robert Eggleston said "This is another example of the gross abuse of power by Tories in Burgess Hill.
"The Community Bus service scheme is a town council initiative. By denying local opposition councillors the right to communicate with their residents about it, shows that Tories just have contempt for local democracy"'
Under Fire - How will Burgess Hill Town Council deal with the complaints of allowing the Conservatives to use council literature for unfair political advantage?
Labour councillor Janet Smith of the Meeds Ward issued the following statement:
Officers at BHTC asked ALL Councillors representing Hammonds Ridge and Chanctonbury to share in the delivery of the fliers for the new community bus service which is a town council ie non political initiative. A simple and natural enough request you would think. But no.
Despite numerous emails requesting to share in the delivery, neither Councillor Janice Henwood nor myself could obtain any leaflets to deliver as Councillor Anne Jones had taken the lot and informed us we weren't needed as she had organised delivery and she refused to give us any. I am naturally very disappointed in this attitude, more so when I discovered that Nicholas Soames was tweeting the new bus service as a success for the Tory Councillors, Anne Jones and Jacquie Landriani. He did not congratulate the town hall officers who had negotiated the contract. This is just plain electioneering and wrong. I expect that the town hall officer who gave Anne all the leaflets just expected that she would split them equally between all three ward Councillors.
Janice and myself work hard in the ward as a team, sharing information and ideas, walking round the ward together looking for improvements to be made etc and we have tried to do the same with Anne. Party politics does not come in to representing the residents day to day, most of whom could not care less which party we are. This bus initiative was a great opportunity to work together regardless of what party we are in, but it is typical of how minority Councillors are treated in the Council. The Tories do not want to work with us to the extent they try to sideline us in our own wards on something which is not political. They want us off the council and are working towards a one party council next May which is not good for democracy in Burgess Hill.
Interestingly, the meeting of the full Burgess Hill Town Council - due to be held on Monday 29th September - has now been cancelled. It's been rearranged for Monday 13th October. No reason has been given for the cancellation. Are we to assume it's to avoid World War 3 breaking out due to the actions of the Mayor and the Conservative party?
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Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What do you make of the actions of Town Mayor Anne Jones? Is it fair that local residents are led to believe that the Conservative party are the only ones working for them? How should this 'abuse of power' be dealt with?