BHTC surrender £2m windfall to MSDC

Last night was the latest disturbing example of whose interests, the majority of Burgess Hill’s elected Town Councillors really represent. At the full council meeting on the 26th of November 2012, the following  motion was proposed:

“BHTC requests that MSDC to transfer £2m of the amount raised from the sale of land  at The Brow, (Burgess Hill) to a ring fenced Burgess Hill account. It is agreed that this £2m will be spent exclusively to kick start improvements to Burgess Hill as identified at the conclusion of the Neighbourhood Planning process.”

Unfortunately the motion was defeated, with the only councillors voting in support of it the proposer Dave Andrews and his seconder Janet Smith.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Barratt-Miles, gave as his reasons for opposing the ringfencing motion:

“I have a problem with arbitrarily picking upon these sale proceeds for no good reason, except political. This proposal will undermine the relationship we have with MSDC, we want to ensure we remain onside with MSDC. MSDC would take affront at BHTC telling them what to do with what was their property in law. MSDC are working with us on the Town Wide Strategy. By working together we will ensure that, that money is spent in Burgess Hill. Therefore I am adamantly opposed to this motion”.

Interesting to note that the three Conservative town councillors who spoke against the motion to transfer the £2m sale proceeds away from MSDC’s control to a ringfenced account for Burgess Hill’s benefit, are also members of MSDC and as such are and have been in receipt of allowances from MSDC. For the financial year to April 2012,  Anne Jones over £350 per month, Andrew Barrett Miles over £650 per month and Pru Moore over £1000 per month.

Councillors Dave Andrews and Janet Smith who proposed the ringfencing motion, were extremely shocked and surprised to find that at the meeting their Lib Dem colleagues did not after all support their ringfencing motion. This was because a letter  from the Chairman of Burgess Hill Lib Dems to the Burgess Hill Labour Party dated 16/10/12 (see below) stated “Lib Dem councillors from Burgess Hill have confirmed to me that their stance on ring fencing the capital proceeds from The Brow for the benefit of Burgess Hill has not changed….we believe that the proceeds should be ring fenced for Burgess Hill”.  Councillor Janet Smith tried to raise this disingenuous Lib Dem letter in the meeting, but it was deemed inappropriate to do so by the Chairman and Conservative Councillor Chris Thomas-Atkins.  Lib Dems at the full council meeting instead proposed an amendment to the proposal, which would not in effect clearly ringfence the £2m for Burgess Hill. The Lib Dem amendment was worded as follows

“BHTC notes that MSDC raised at least £2m by way of a capital receipt from the sale of the land at The Brow.”

“BHTC requests that MSDC spends an equivalent sum exclusively to kick start either improvements to assets owned by MSDC or BHTC (“the Authorities”) or on the acquisition of new assets by the Authorities as identified at the conclusion of the Neighbourhood Planning process”

Surely the wording “…improvements to assets owned by MSDC…” is a rather vague phrase, which could subsequently be construed to mean any asset owned  by MSDC throughout Mid Sussex? This amendment to the proposed ringfencing motion was also defeated, with support only from three Lib Dem councillors Denis Jones, Janice Henwood and Peter Barton.

Whose interest do our elected town councillors really serve?