Tory bid falls on deaf ears

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DAVID Cameron’s Big Society was at the heart of a debate about the role charities should play in 1066 Country.

The local Conservative deputy leader, Cllr Matthew Beaver, told fellow councillors that it was high time the authority began looking to volunteer groups and charities to help run services here in 1066 Country.

He claimed that losses in certain departments and council posts could be cushioned by devolving responsibility to local people who not only might have more expertise in certain areas but also boasted a burning desire to improve the town.

Speaking on Monday night, Cllr Beaver said: “The truth is the people of Hastings know the services they need and are better placed to set out how to deliver them.

“For too long we have looked to the council or the Government and any other public sector organisations for the answers, but this is unsustainable.

“We don’t have all the answers but those we don’t have the community may well do, so what is wrong with saying to local communities that we need their help and give them the power to initiate schemes?”

It was a sentiment shared by his Conservative colleague, Cllr Peter Pragnell, who said: “It is supremely arrogant to assume we are always best placed to provide services to our residents.

“This town is blessed with an enormous number of people who give up their time as either volunteers or low paid workers - this is still not being tapped into sufficiently.”

Together the pair mooted an additional priority to the authority’s annual plan, namely that, whenever possible, the council should look to devolve power to local people.

However, the idea did not go down well with rival Labour councillors.

Cllr Mike Turner ranted: “The only reason they (the Conservatives) want lots of volunteers is because they would do the work for free and the council would not have to pay for it.”

While Cllr Emily Westley said this sort of thing was already happening, giving the example of work she had done with youngsters building a series of bike jumps in Hollington.

And Labour firebrand Cllr Godfrey Daniel added: “All this idea is saying is that there are people at this council who we could do without and just get the voluntary sector to do their work - a sector which is already being cut back itself.”

The Labour-dominated council rejected the plans, but Cllr Birch did say that if the Conservatives came back to the table with a more agreeable way of achieving the same basic idea, his party would be happy to listen.