Rushlake Green Village Leaf

OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT - A Loose-Leaf Guide

In this section

- Calendar of meetings & Sessions

- Our Local Government - a basic guide

- Map of our Heathfield East Ward

- Useful links

 

CALENDAR OF MEETINGS AND SESSIONS

2012 program coming up soon

 

OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT - a (very) basic guide

About this guide
Many people have told us that they don’t fully understand how the different bits of local government work, and how they fit together. The following notes reflect what we have managed to glean on the subject to date. We are fairly certain that there will be errors, omissions, or things we have misconstrued, for all of which we apologize in advance. Please email any corrections to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The components
In essence there are five components of local and national government. At the most immediate level, we are represented by our Parish Council. At the next level we are within the ‘Heathfield East’ ward of Wealden District Council. Beyond that, we are served by the East Sussex County Council. At a national level local Conservative MP Gregory Barker represents our Bexhill and Battle constituency in Parliament. We are also represented by the ten UK MEPs. At each of their respective levels, the members representing us have two main roles. They are responsible for services and regulations that help us live our lives in sustainable way. And they are the means through which we ourselves can make representations, have our voice heard and vote or argue for change - or for the preservation of the things we value.

Our local Parish Council
A Parish council exists to ‘improve local services and the quality of life in the local community’. The contact details of our 12 Warbleton Parish Councillors can be found on the Parish Website. The Parish Council meet once a month, generally on a Thursday. Each month the Parish Council also hold a planning meeting, provided there are applications to consider. Meeting dates are publicised on the Parish Council website and on the notices board alongside The Stores.

Parish councils have elections for all of their councillors every four years and the next election is in May at the same time as the District Council elections. Uncontested elections: Where there are an equal number or fewer candidates than there are vacancies, all candidates are elected (en bloc) unopposed, and no poll is taken. Where there are fewer candidates than vacant seats, the parish council has the duty to co-opt any person or persons to fill the vacancies. Contested elections: Where there are more candidates than vacancies, a poll must be held. In the interim, if a councillor dies or resigns the Council are required to publish a public notice of vacancy.  This states the local authority and ward in which the vacancy has arisen and how a by-election can be requested.  Requests can then be submitted from electors for a by-election to be held.  If, within 14 working days of the date of the notice, insufficient requests for a by-election have been received then the seat can be co-opted. If, in the process more than one candidate emerges, the Parish Council members vote to fill the seat, not the general public.

The services that our Parish Council are responsible for, and make decisions on, include things like street lighting, war memorial maintenance, bus shelters and halls for social clubs and meetings, children’s playgrounds, recreation/sports fields and grants for local projects and organisations. Our Parish Council is one of the ‘Statutory Consultees’  (along with bodies such as County Highways) for local planning applications for which Wealden is the Planning Authority. Our Parish Councillors are our first line of help about local matters, as they have a particularly good understanding of local issues and considerations. You can contact them through the Parish contact form or for more information refer to the Parish Website itself.

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District Council

Our district council - Wealden - provides services that include: re-cycling and waste refuse collection, environmental health, housing-needs services, planning and building control, leisure and amenities, tourism and the collection of council tax. The District comprises 35 wards represented by 55 councillors (also known as members) who are elected by the 143,000 residents of the 323 square miles of the Wealden. Whilst some are ‘independent’, most District Councillors belong to one of the national political parties (or to a local political party). As such, new candidates must first be approved by the local branch of the appropriate political party. The next District Council election takes place in May 2011, and candidates must be registered by . The District Council operates rather like Parliament in that there is a cabinet, responsible for most day-to-day Council decisions. The Leader of the Council appoints councillors to the Cabinet. The Cabinet must make its decisions in line with the overall policies, priorities and budget set by the full Council. The cabinet meets every six weeks and the full council (which anyone can attend) meets around ten times a year.  There are also Planning committees and Scrutinee committees. Planning Committees act in a quasi-judicial capacity and their decisions are usually final.  Applicants who have had an application refused (either under officers' delegated powers or by a planning committee) can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate but it is a lengthy process and it appears that only a minority succeed.  As part of its ‘Transformation Programme’ Wealden recently reduced its four Scrutiny Committees to two - essentially, one to look at Internal & Audit Matters and the other to deal with Environment & Community affairs.  Their function is to examine decisions of the Executive (Cabinet), especially ones which have been "called in" by a member of the Council and to make recommendations (a bit like a Commons Select Committee). There are also Council members who are 'Portfolio Holders' for major areas of work, which they undertake with the support of relevant teams of council officers. For more information, look at the Wealden website www.wealden.gov.uk

 

District Council Officers
Day to day operation of District Council services, is carried out by full time Council ‘Officers’ and staff. Wealden District Council currently operates from buildings in Crowborough and Hailsham but the plan is to move into a single premise, in Hailsham, during 2011 - to streamline operations and cut costs.

 

Planning applications
As residents, our most likely day-to-day contact with the District Council will be on matters such as Planning. All applications for planning approval are made to, and handled by the Wealden planning department. There is an online facility, where planning applications can be viewed and their progress followed. The Parish Council also hold regular Planning Meetings, to review local planning applications and hear any representations from the applicants and local residents. Our local District Councillor is also notified about all local applications, and has a role in the decision making process. Representations, about planning applications, can also be made to our District Councillor and in writing (or online) to the District Council planning department. The planning department recommend that anyone applying for planning permission should book an informal ‘pre-planning’ meeting, before plans are fully developed, at which point the officers can give guidance about what might or might not be successful. If an application is widely opposed by local people, it can be referred to the appropriate Wealden ‘Planning Committee’ made up of District Councillors. At these meetings up to two people (including the applicant or their agent) can make a personal representation in favour of the application and up to two people can speak against it (each for a 2 mins max). In the case of major applications (more than 10 units of housing or commercial premises exceeding 500 sq m) the rules are three people for each side for 3 mins. The exception to these rules is in what are known as "County Matters" where for example, an application is lodged for a school or something else on County-owned land or property.  In this case the roles are reversed, District acts as a statutory consultee and County makes the final decision. Look at the Wealden online Planning and Building Control pages here or go along to a meeting to observe.


Our District Councillor - Nigel McKeeman - represents the Heathfield East ward, that covers quite a large and slightly random geographical footprint (see map).  Contact details for Jan Dunk can be found in the ‘Your Council’ section of the Wealden District Council website here. Unlike Council Officers, who are paid employees, District Councillors are unpaid, apart from an annual contribution towards the costs of conducting their responsibilities.

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County Council
East Sussex County Council provides services that include: education, social services, roads and transport, waste disposal, economic development, countywide planning and the environment, protecting the public and libraries. We have 49 councillors who are elected by residents of East Sussex. Information about County Council services and practices can be found on their website www.eastsussex.gov.uk.  As with our District Council, people who stand for election as County councillors may belong to one of the national political parties or to a local political party, or they may be completely independent of a political party. Following the election in June 2009, the political make-up of East Sussex County Council is: 29 Conservative; 13 Liberal Democrat; 4 Labour; 3 Independent - giving the conservatives a majority on the Council. The next County Council elections fall in 2013. Councillors are responsible for making sure that the services that the Council provides meet the needs of residents and those who work in the county. They do this by setting the overall policies and strategies for the Council and by monitoring the way in which these are implemented.

County Council Officers are people who work for the Council and who are paid to deliver the services agreed by councillors. The five East Sussex County Council departments and their main responsibilities are: Adult Social Care – provide social care services for residents over 16, including residential care and sensory care services; Governance and Community Services – responsible for trading standards, register offices, supporting economic regeneration and libraries. Children's Services – provide social care for people under 16, state education and other childcare services; Corporate Resources – responsible for managing the budget and auditing our finances; Transport and Environment – responsible for maintaining roads, providing public transport and managing the local environment. It is the task of both elected representatives (councillors) and paid employees (council officers) to work together to supply these services for East Sussex.

Our County Councillors - Rupert Simmons - represents the Heathfield division. Contact details for Rupert Simmons can be found on the East Sussex County website here. Parts of Warblelton are served by County Councillors Bill Bentley and Roger Thomas, who both represent the Hailsham and Herstmonceux division.

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Our local MP is Greg Barker (Conservative) representing the Battle and Bexhill constituency, of which we are a part. After the General Election in May 2010, the Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Greg as Minister of State for Climate Change. Greg is a GLOBE International Commissioner on Climate and Energy Security, Vice Chair of APPG Environment Group and member of the UK Green Fiscal Commission. For more information, look at his website www.gregorybarker.com

Within the UK Government, the department for Communities and Local Government is of interest, particularly now, as it is responsible for the Localism Bill currently going through Parliament. This bill will have a significant impact on the degree to which decisions and policies on local issues are decentralised, and given back to local people. For more information, there is a useful guide which can be downloaded here and we hope soon to do a full Loose-leaf report on Localism

 

OFFICIAL MAP OF THE HEATHFIELD EAST WARD

We've been exploring the boundaries 'Heathfield East' which is the ward within which Rushlake Green and Warbleton are constituencies.* Also in the ward appear to be: Churches Green; Turners Green; Three Cups Corner; Punnett's Town; parts of Burwash Common and Broad Oak; Parts of Dallington and Earl's Down; Old Heathfield; the outskirts of Vines Cross; the north end of Hammer Lane and Foul Mile; and the roads from the North into Bodle Street. So it's quite a disparate ward - and was originally more straightforward until a section of East Heathfield was added a few years back.
* It's important to point out that some residents of the Southern parts of Warbleton Parish, fall within the neighbouring herstomonceux ward, for which Andrew Long is the District Councillor.

Here's the official map of the ward. Unfortunately it also shows other ward or parish boundaries. The small diagramme shows which boundary applies to the Heathfield East ward. Essentially its the main area that looks a bit like a badly drawn map of the UK with the west country missing.

Thumbnail

Full map

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SOME USEFUL LINKS (please suggest others)

Warbleton Parish Council website temporarily unavailable

Parish Councillors (on WPC website)

Wealden District Council website

District Councillors page (on WDC website)

East Sussex County Council website

County Councillors (on ESCC website)

Govt info (Dec 2010) about the Localism Bill

Guide to Localism Bill

Gregory Barker, MP for Bexhill and Battle

Department for Communities and Local Government