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Beam's impertinence

Who allowed these BEAM people to speak?

April 22, 2017

The Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) has twisted itself some quite bizarre logical knots over its opposition to the proposal to give Bookham its own Village Council.

The Bugle has already written (here) about the most recent BRA newsletter. But there are further reasons why one BRA road steward took one look at the latest newsletter and had the backbone and moral courage to refuse to distribute it. 

Consider another article by John Howarth in the same issue (click here to download it). Under the headline “BRA under attack” Howarth turns his own attack on BEAM, the Village Council’s advocates.

He says: “[T]he actions of the BEAM group (Who elected them? Who do they represent? Who gave them their mandate?)… has (sic) resulted in the residents of the village having to confirm their already given opinion.”

First, as John Howarth must know, his claim that Bookham residents “have already given their opinion” about whether to have a Village Council is simply untrue. This is because nobody, not even John Howarth, will know the opinion of Bookham residents on the Village Council proposal until after the advisory poll on May 4. To suggest otherwise is, put simply, dishonest.

This, remember, is the poll that BEAM have campaigned for all along. The same poll, that the BRA has so resolutely opposed being held at all.

BEAM’s impertinence: But the most worrying phrases in this flurry of verbal thuggery are these questions about BEAM: “Who elected them? Who do they represent? Who gave them their mandate?”

So a group of residents had the effrontery to think a Village Council for Bookham was a good idea, and got together to mount a campaign to persuade others of its merits. And the point of their campaign was to hold a secret ballot to let Bookham residents decide for themselves about the issue rather than be told what was good for them. Disgraceful behaviour.

On the other hand, since when did ordinary voters need to be elected to express their views about the future of the place where they live? Or to discuss it with others? Or to join with them to press for change when they see strong grounds for concern about Bookham’s future?

Finally, there is quite a bit, when you think about it, that we don’t know about the BRA and its committees. What is their political affiliation? Do the sub-committee that vets planning applications declare any interest in planning matters. If so, who to?

Why are they doing this?

One of the enduring mysteries in all this is why the BRA is so inflamed by the idea of a Parish Council. One explanation is conceit. They think they already are a Parish Council. It’s there in the minutes over the years. In discussing planning issues on April 2, 2007, for example, the minutes record: “BRA must not be accused of triviality. We are treated as a parish council with appropriate rights.”

Sadly, the reality is that this is a committee of people with all the legal authority of a tennis club.

The Bugle isn’t alone in believing BRA opposition has been totally disproportionate. BEAM held a poorly-attended evening information meeting last month at which Trevor Leggo, chief executive of the Sussex and Surrey Associations Of Local Councils (SSALC) remarked that, in all the decades he’d been involved in setting up and running parish councils, he had never encountered the bitter opposition that residents faced in Bookham.

Thousands of other communities big and small, rich and poor, all over the country are happy to set up and run local councils. Why is the opposition here so fierce?

The Bugle has always tried to pay the BRA credit for the excellent things it does for the benefit of all of us. These are not evil people, or anything like it.

Further, it would be totally unreasonable for any group of residents to propose an important change in Bookham’s governance without their proposal coming under serious, detailed scrutiny. It is reasonable for the BRA committee to oppose the BEAM proposal if they wish.

But like this?  It is not reasonable either to mislead voters or lie about the case being made by their opponents. The BRA has not just failed to present the positive evidence for a Village Council, as it promised it would (click here to download its 2015 newsletter), but misrepresented both BEAM and those who support it.

The BRA’s campaign sullies the BRA record, denying its members and others the evidence of the benefits flowing from a Parish Council and a forward-looking residents’ association working together, as happens in thousands of communities all over the country.

Editor’s Note: Although this website supports the BE AMbitious (BEAM) campaign for a Village Council for Bookham, the articles published here are compiled without the approval or foreknowledge of anyone in the BEAM campaign except the editor, who takes sole responsibility for the views expressed.

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