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Bugle under attack for ‘nasty’ reporting

April 20, 2017
The Bugle ’s reporting of the Village Council issue has come under fire from some Bookham residents.

Bookham voters have the chance to take part in an advisory poll on May 4 to say whether they favour the setting up of a Village Council for our community.

Over the last two weeks, The Bugle has published articles analysing and commenting on the latest newsletter from the Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA). (To download that newsletter, click here.) The Bugle articles explained why we believe the BRA newsletter misrepresents the case in favour of a Village Council for Bookham, and why the BRA’s campaign against a council breaks a promise the BRA made in a newsletter two years ago (here). It said then that the decision should be left to Bookham residents, and that the BRA’s role was solely to ‘make sure that both the advantages and disadvantages of such a proposal are fully identified’: 
The BRA's broken promise, Spring 2015.

Posting their comments on the Nexdoor website this week, the residents complained that the Bugle’s reports were one-sided and that the debate had turned ‘nasty’ as a result.


Ian Assersohn
said: “Gosh this debate has got quite nasty. I still don't really know which would be best, but when I read one-sided stuff like this from either party it automatically makes me lean towards the other side.”

Jeremy Thomas agreed: “It is shame that we won't be able to look to the Bookham Bugle for a balanced report on the upcoming debate.”

Mark Willcox added: “I'm not sure the reappearance of the Bookham Bugle recently has helped, if I'm honest...”

The articles have even atttracted comment from residents who aren’t qualified to vote in the advisory poll on May 4. Nick Cox from Fetcham said: “I'm planning to go to the Big Bookham Debate on Thursday (27th) at 7:15pm in the Old Barn Hall - hopefully we will have genuine, constructive debate from all sides on this issue.”

Assersohn added that he wanted to attend too: “I really wish I could go to that - I hope that it will be recorded, or at least written up somewhere - (apart from the Bungle).”

Ouch!  Bookham resident John Sellers said that some of the people who had said they intended to go to the debate would make sure it was written up fairly.

Comment

The Bugle’s editor writes: Twelve years ago I was a BRA road steward. I believed the BRA’s declaration that it would “represent the views of all who live in Great and Little Bookham on important local issues to the local authorities and other public bodies and is independent of all political parties.”

I soon learned that it didn’t even listen to its own road stewards on important planning matters, and that its independence of politics was a sham. The Bugle began because BRA meetings were closed to residents, it didn’t publish minutes of meetings, and its AGM was a Tory party rally, always held in the run-up to local elections, with a pep talk from the local Conservative MP. When these things were put right the Bugle site was suspended.

If the BRA had kept its promise to present the cases for and against a Village Council fairly, that’s the way things would have stayed.

The Bugle has always tried to pay the BRA credit for the excellent things it does for the benefit of all of us. But it believes the BRA’s campaign sullies that record, denying BRA members and others the even greater benefits certain to flow from a Parish Council and a forward-looking residents’ association working together.

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?

I frankly do not know the answer to that. My guess is that the BRA already thinks of itself as a Parish Council — BRA minutes mention this — so doesn’t want a real one cramping its style. Its committee think they’re entitled to run Bookham, with or without a secret ballot.

What I do know is that the latest BRA newsletter is one of the most squalid documents I’ve ever read, for all the reasons set out elsewhere on this site. I know of one road steward who had the backbone and moral fortitude to take one look and refuse to distribute it to his neighbours. 

I’d say this to readers who say the Bugle’s coverage is one-sided: The front page of this site has prominent links to the important local websites, including the BRA’s; look for a BEAM link on the BRA website’s ‘links’ page. There isn’t one. Loads about Leatherhead. You’d think Bookham was a Leatherhead suburb, but no BEAM.

How you would describe the BRA’s coverage of the Village Council proposal?  And do you think reasonably well-informed residents who see the BRA telling lies and misrepresenting the case for a VC should sit on their hands and keep quiet? 

No thanks.

Disclaimer: This website supports the BE AMbitious (BEAM) campaign for a Village Council for Bookham. The articles published here, however, 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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