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pokemon party burgess hillControl Freak Councillors Won't Let Residents Decide How To Spend 65k Of Public Art Money In Burgess Hill

4th August 2016
By Peter Chapman

If you needed another reason why our town council deserve little to no respect from local residents, then here's a great example.

Earlier this year, I unearthed the news that money owed to Burgess Hill ended up being spent in neighbouring Hurstpierpoint to pay towards improvements at their bowls club.

Local Burgess Hill sports teams were not amused, nor were many other local residents.

Freedom Of Information
As a result, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Mid Sussex Disitrict Council on 27th January 2016, requesting to know the sums of section 106 money being held by the District Council which is owed to Burgess Hill following local housing developments.

Among the figures was £65k to spend on 'Public Art'. Now, unlike money for community infrastructure, formal sport etc, which has to be spent carefully, Public Art money is essentially free money. There's no right or wrong way to spend it.

With this in mind and no recollection of any money being spent on Public Art for a good 10 years, I made contact with District Council leader Garry Wall, suggesting that it would be good for MSDC to let the Burgess Hill public in on some decision making for once. With all the unpopular decisions being made over the past few years, it would have been the decent thing to do.

I offered to put in the legwork to get suggestions from the Burgess Hill online community to see how they'd possibly like to see the money spent.

Council Consultations ALWAYS Fall Flat
Typically, consultations held by the local councils have a very poor response rate with miniscule numbers taking part, often requiring people to be at a location at the crack of dawn at the weekend to speak to councillors in person in hope to overturn a decision that's been pre-determined.

Through Burgess Hill Uncovered it would have been different and exciting, a chance for an overlooked portion of the community to have some input on something that we could truely influence for once.

Cllr Wall was receptive of the idea. But then things changed.

BHU's Request Thwarted At The First Hurdle
An email came a month later from MSDC, informing me that they had put Burgess Hill Town Council in charge of spending the Public Art money.

Naturally, I replied to MSDC saying they were making a big mistake and that the whole point of me contacting them in the first place was to bypass the town council from the decision making process as they'd end up doing what they want with the money and ignore the public.

MSDC replied and stated that they were sure that BHU would still have a big part to play in the project of spending the £65k Public Art money.

Burgess Hill Town Council Announce THEIR Plan To Spend The £65k
A good few months went by and I heard nothing. Then on the agenda for July's full meeting of Burgess Hill Town Council were details of the intention to spend the £65k, I read the infomation with interest, looking for the bit about involving BHU and members of the public....

Surprise surprise, Cllr Publicity Pru Moore had taken on the responsibility of the project. She had already formed a steering group which claimed to include local residents. The project had been decided and how the money would be spent.

At July's meeting, the councillors were being asked to agree to everything that Pru has already done and to give her the green light to continue the project. The 'local residents' involved in the steering group were Pru Moore's mates, including Dominc Moore from the Green Circle.

It has been decided that every single penny of the £65k will be spent installing art on the Green Circle, with Dominic Moore having already held a meeting with a District Council Officer, showing her round the route.

Not a single councillor at the meeting questioned how the project has been decided upon or asked if the public had been consulted to ensure it was a something that the majority were happy about.

Now, it could well be that the public would have backed artwork being placed on the Green Circle, but why not ask to find out?

Unimaginative Use Of Public Art Money
The scope for 'Public Art' is huge, going well beyond the unimaginative thinking employed by the council that Public Art has to be sculptures. Did the council fully investigate exactly what can be classed as public art? Probably not.

Did you know that a giant video screen placed in the town centre, displaying video, pictures and music from local people on a loop can be classed at Public Art?

Disgusting, Predictable Town Council
It's actually disgusting, but so predictable that Burgess Hill Town council have decided to do what they want with the money. Once again they have shown that they couldn't care less what local residents want. They are nothing more than power-hungry dictators... apart from the councillors who were paper candidates and couldn't care less either way.

Isn't it amazing that no money had been spent on Public Art for many many years, but as soon as I put in a FOI which revealed there was £65k available, the council suddently want to spend that money.

So, good readers, I tried, I really did. I wanted to see a little bit of power go back into the hands of the residents, to have some sort of art installation that many could be proud of, knowing that the public chose it and not had something forced upon us, decided by the usual suspects on the council

I warned MSDC what would happen if the town council were involved, how we'd all be shut out of the decision making process, and despite my warnings, MSDC rushed to put the town council in charge of the project and the inevitable has happpened.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold
If in future months, Burgess Hill Town Council come forward and announce a big consultation about how to spend £65k of Public Art, it will be the equivalent of them building a house in their chosen location and then asking you what scent of plug-in air freshener you'd like them to use inside. They didn't want your input when the real big decisions were being made, as has always been the way at BHTC.

Shame on you Burgess Hill Town Council, Andrew Barrett-Miles (Council Leader) Pru Moore (project leader) and Steve CrIdland (Council CEO) your attitude towards engaging with the public is disgusting, or should I say 'non-existant'

Spread the word! The town council won't even let the public help decide how to spend £65k of free money on public art.

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