LETTER: Response required over fake letters

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The March 6th column by the council leader Ray Dawe was surely not intended to be taken seriously?The lack of logic and deliberate avoidance of key issues would be laughable if the implications were not so grave.

To paraphrase his opening remarks he patronisingly pats the local electorate on their heads,pointing out that the pound in their pocket is what interests them-in this case the freezing of the council tax- and that they are not,nor should they be,interested in obtuse matters relating to the constitution of the council.

He then defies his own assertion by using the rest of the article to expound his own narrow version of events leading to the rejection of the convention of the vice-chairman(Christian Mitchell in this instance)becoming chairman.

Presumably he assumes that the readers won’t be interested in the rest of what he has to say!

As to avoidance of key issues,we have seen for some time that the ‘southern’ Conservative councillors have continued to drive through the Liberty developer’s A264 North Horsham proposals as the ‘preferred option’, denying other options any support in formulating and obtaining evidence.

There has also been a sham public consultation process,which amounted to little more than a PR exercise to sell what had already been decided.

Subsequent public meetings have been heavily stage managed and open debate denied in order to stifle any effective dissent. And now,Christian Mitchell, who has conscientiously reflected the views of his constituents, has been voted out of office for opposing the ‘party line’. This has been done by using a ‘three line whip’ intended to coerce the rest of his Conservative colleagues.

Perhaps Mr Dawe should reflect on that nostrum of a famous predecessor in his party - ‘Let the People Speak’- and even those politically unaware masses for whom he appears to have little respect would surely tell him, given the chance, that planning matters should be decided by councillors freely voting on the merits of the proposals before them.

But the main and immediate issue which Mr Dawe must surely answer is the allegation by Mr Mitchell in his column, ‘I have discovered... in September,that two letters, apparently written by residents and abjectly supporting the council’s plans, were fakes. The writers didn’t exist and were uploaded to the official consultation website where they still remain... This made the whole consultation unsafe and required full investigation’.

Well, Mr Dawe, I’m sure you will be delighted to demonstrate your dedication to the truth and transparency in this serious matter by devoting a column to a full explanation, covering, eg:

1. Which are the alleged fake letters and what do they say? Do they have names attached and are they identifiable residents?

2. Is it true that you stated that ‘there weren’t sufficient resources to pursue the matter?’ Is that the view of the chief executive, Tom Crowley? Perhaps you would like the assistance of one of the County Times’ investigative journalists?

3. If these are false letters have you or any of your colleagues any idea who may have written them?

4. Do you agree that, if they are found to be fakes, that creates a very serious flaw in the consultation process which should be urgently discussed in full council?

BOB HAUGHTON

Smithbarn, Horsham