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Your Rights At The Annual Town Meeting - What Burgess Hill Town Council Aren't Telling You

5th March 2018 | By Peter Chapman

Next Wednesday (April 11th) at 7:30pm, the Annual Town Meeting will be held at St John's Church.

BHU have done some research and discovered that Burgess Hill Town Council have been conducting the meetings incorrectly in order to stop some residents from exercising their right to have a say.

As a veteran of many annual town meetings, the format works like this... the unelected town mayor reads out a long boring report of all their achivements (it's called running a council) and then they invite questions about the report from the members of the public in attendance - which limits what can actually be asked.

Sometimes when a pesky audience member asks a question unreleated to the council's achievements, they get smacked down if the council don't want to answer. Interestingly they embrace unrelated questions if it's a chance to make themselves look good - often the questions come from family and friends connected to the ruling political party.

It's odd as the Town Council's own website sets out how the meeting is supposed to run. At the top of the page it states:

Burgess Hill Town Council's Annual Town Meeting is an opportunity for all Burgess Hill residents to express their views and ask questions about issues in the town.

Yet on the same page, the agenda for the meeting states:


Jacqui Landriani, Burgess Hill (unelected) Town Mayor.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions on the report.

There is no 'open forum' on the agenda.

Plenty of empty seats at last year's annual town meeting

In 'the good councillor's guide' published by the National Association of Local Councils, of which Burgess Hill Town Council proudly boast of being a member, it says the following about holding an annual town meeting:

The Annual Parish or Town Meeting is a meeting of the electorate taking place between 1 March and 1 June. There is no prescribed format.

Electors can contribute to the agenda and in practice these meetings often celebrate local activities and debate current issues in the community.

Public participation is encouraged. It means that members of the public can express their views or ask questions in a specified slot during a meeting.

With this in mind, here's our tips for the meeting next Wednesday:

  • DO Put your hand up and request to speak at the appropriate time.
  • DO Ask a question about whatever you like.
  • DO Use the meeting as a chance to have a platform to make a statement to the councillors and everyone else in attendance.

  • DON'T Be Silenced because the council chairman, the town clerk and their friends in the audience don't like what you're saying.
  • DON'T Be Fooled into sitting back down if told what you're saying/ your question is against procedures...there are no procedures at an annual town meeting.
  • Don't Allow the council to dodge your question, you have a right to expect an answer from our elected representatives. If they can't answer there and then, ask them how soon they will be able to provide an answer and where they will publish it.

See you there!

We hope to see as many members of the public in attendance next week as possible. The past few years has seen less than 50 people make the effort. Each attendee could have stretched out across four steats and had a nap during the boring reading of the report!

Don't forget, Wednesday 11th April, 7:30pm, St Johns Church, Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill, RH15 9AA.

Spread the word! The council have been conducting the annual town meeting incorrectly for years!

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
Will you be attending the annual town meeting? Is it right that the council have stopped people making statements and asking questions in the past?

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