ROTHER District Council is recommending that we bite the bullet and accept the one off government grant of £177,000 in order to freeze council tax, meaning people will not have to pay more this year. The alternative was not to accept the grant and increase council tax by a substantial amount which would be unacceptable by those who are already suffering from the government’s austerity measures. However, next year looks daunting and the decision to either raise council tax or cut services substantially will have to be made unless town and parish councils can take on some of the burden by having some services devolved to them. It would appear that this is the way forward, but it all depends on an amicable agreement being reached between Rother and its town and parish councils as to what they would be prepared to take on. The nub of this problem would be whether there would be sufficient human and financial resources available to the town and parish councils. On February 24, two representatives from Rye Town Council have been invited by Rother District Council to table their ideas at a Devolved Services Working Group meeting. Other Parish Councils have also been invited. Each town and parish council will be allowed 20 minutes to speak – not exactly much time to set out any devolution plan! Rye Town Council’s representatives have had their ideas approved at a town council meeting on Monday. I would have wished the plan would have included a discussion on area committees, but until Rye Town Council has agreed this alternative approach to devolution it remains on hold for the moment. To my mind this would be the best solution, but I am aware that such a radical change in governance would take longer than the time available if we want to avoid a doomsday scenario next year.
l It was with great sadness that the death was announced of Professor Keith Taylor, reported at length in last week’s Rye Observer. Keith and I had worked together on issues affecting Rye for many years as part of the wider group of the Campaign for a Democratic Rye, and also with the Friends of Rye Library. To me he was a good and loyal friend, and a source of inspiration. The baton has now been passed to others who have now the task of continuing to push forward with the ideas that Keith aspired to.
l For those who have braved the severe weather recently it must be with great relief to feel the air temperature rising. It has been a particularly tough time for the elderly and those with mobility problems. Rye Town Council must be praised for putting in place a winter weather plan. Many town councillors had volunteered to be snow shovellors and could be identified in their yellow jackets clearing the pavements in the most vulnerable areas of the town. It would have been nice if more people could have cleared their own pavements as once many years ago was the custom, but I fear attitudes have changed, sadly. The salt bins, which have increased in number this year thanks to the county council, made a difference and were generally well used for putting on icy patches on pavements. The rail closure has been extended by several weeks the cause of which must be presumed to be down to the weather. However, it is reported that the replacement buses have been operating extremely well despite the difficult road conditions.
l It is very gratifying to see the Tilling Green Community Centre working so well with many events being well attended. Organisations in the town having used it as a public venue include the Rye Emergency Action Team for its flood update, and shortly the annual Town Meeting will be holding its meeting on Wednesday, March 7. Flyers are about to be pushed through letterboxes shortly advising of this event. Rye Town Council is hopeful it will be well attended again.
l My column cannot end without making some comment on the poor state of Rye. For how much longer do we have to suffer the degrading sites of run down and empty properties and vacant plots of land awaiting to be developed? After much prompting Sainsbury’s are to do up the terrace of cottages it owns and is to let them out until the supermarket fiasco has been resolved. Tesco on the other hand has remained silent on the properties it owns. The Cinque Ports Street site and the Fishmarket Road cottages also await redevelopment as does the garden nursery site in Udimore Road. One would suppose nothing is going to happen quickly with the country in the throes of severe austerity and money in short supply. One good thing is that Rother District Council has delivered a Section 215 Notice on the owners of the Monastry in Conduit Hill to tidy up the site and have the boarded up windows replaced.
l It is a case of battening down the hatches and tightening our belts for a bit longer. However, on a happier note let us rejoice in what Rye does well, and that’s its festivals, which are a delight when each one comes around. Rye’s Annual Scallop Festival starts on Saturday, February 25, running through to Sunday, March 4, and I am told it is set to be even better than last year. There will more restaurants offering a wide variety of scallop dishes. The new Ambrette restaurant at the White Vine is advertising a six-course menu to mark the event!