LETTER: Decisions behind closed doors

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Horsham District Council leader Ray Dawe wrote an interesting article in this paper last week. He seemed to be asking local residents for more sympathy for the plight of councillors who put themselves forward to do their best for the locality and are then often reviled by people for the decisions they make.

He implied that local councillors have altruistic motives and are just there trying to do their best for local people, who in turn are not very grateful for their efforts.

I’m sure some councillors do put themselves forward for purely altruistic reasons, sincerely wanting to make a contribution to the betterment of the locality.

However, I am pretty sure some of them have ulterior motives. Perhaps they view local ‘service’ as a step onto the greasy pole; a step that will enable them to start climbing the pole and eventually enter the wider world of politics and central government.

Others may enjoy the feeling of power that comes with making decisions that can affect the lives of many people. Some probably like the cachet that comes with being a prominent local figure.

There must be all sorts of reasons why people would put themselves forward for this rather onerous role.

I take issue with Mr Dawe when he seems to sneer at ordinary local people who voice their opinions publicly or mount a campaign.

People will do this when they feel very strongly about a particular issue and when they realise the local council is about to sign up to a decision which will lead to their lives being adversely affected.

Many local residents have the impression, rightly or wrongly, that decisions are being made behind closed doors by a small clique of people and that the mainstream council members are then coerced into going along with the decision which has already been made – whether they honestly agree with it or not.

There’s the problem of councillors feeling obliged to vote along party lines, rather than as their conscience dictates. They may have to compromise their principles to support their party’s decision.

A case in point is the North Horsham development plan. Apparently several district councillors were unhappy with this, but felt unable to vote against putting it out for ‘consultation’. The best they could do was to abstain.

So this particular juggernaut rolls on. It will be interesting to see if council members decide to take a step back and have a rethink now that Novartis is going to leave a big hole in the town.

Let’s hope councillor Claire Vickers and indeed all the councillors will take to heart Dr Geoffrey Richardson’s excellent letter last week when he spoke out against meetings being held in secret.

SHEILA WHITE

Dorking Road, Warnham