Making your voice heard is not just about voting in elections but continuously driving your elected representatives with your opinions and ideas to influence what we do.
One of the ways to ensure your voice can be heard is via the much maligned ‘consultation’. Often accused of being a ‘fait accompli’, these are, in fact, a vehicle for politicians to test the water and change their approach if the temperature boils over. I know from my own campaign for Fair Funding for Schools that the Government will listen to the results of a consultation when it turns into a wall of noise.
At a local government level, you can get involved with some issues which will make a real difference to how your community is run. Do you use the mobile library service in the County or Pevensey Bay Library? Both are scheduled to close. There is an East Sussex County Council consultation exercise open until 14 December on the proposed closures. If you believe, as I do, that books and the gift of reading are a precious public commodity and these libraries should be kept open, then you need to register that view or closure will follow.
On another front, are you interested in the way Bexhill is governed? Some residents in the town would like it to have a Town Council (as operates in Battle and Rye) to make decisions independently from the rest of Rother. Others take the view that, with Bexhill’s population being about half of Rother, and therefore already having a dominant presence in the council, it would be an expensive act to offer another layer of democracy. I do not have a view on this issue and I will happily work with whatever is decided. So far, only 10% of residents have given their view. The remaining 90% have until 31 October to ensure they can influence the debate.
It’s not just consultations which can move the agenda. Lobbying and supporting your MP on a particular project which they are championing helps us demonstrate to Government Ministers how much a project is needed and will be supported. Delivering High Speed Rail to Hastings and Bexhill is a case in point. Both Amber Rudd MP and I are working hard on this project which will reduce travel times between Bexhill and London to 78 minutes. However, strong vocal support from local constituents and businesses will be essential if we are to deliver this project.
What happens if the consultation or project does not deliver the verdict you were looking for? I look for the best alternative option. Take Pevensey Bay Library, at a meeting I chaired last week in Pevensey, the elected representatives, Friends of the Library and I pledged to set up a team to assess how the community could take on the running of the library if County do proceed to closure. That won’t stop us using our voice for the preferred outcome. Please use yours if you want to direct the way your community is run.