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Bookham’s future is not about the BRA

April 6, 2017.
Anyone would think that the Bookham Residents’ Association mattered more than the future of Bookham itself.

Most of you will be aware that polling day, May 4, includes a vote about whether Bookham should have its own Parish Council, to be called Bookham Village Council. 

Two years ago BRA chairman Peter Seaward wrote: “This is clearly a decision which must rest with the people of Bookham as a whole. Our role will be to make to make sure that both the advantages and disadvantages of such a proposal are fully identified.”

Since then, the BRA has done the opposite, preferring to stifle just such a discussion. And God help anyone, even among their own number, who wants to give the council idea a fair chance.

It’s as though no-one who advocates a Village Council for Bookham is entitled to a point of view.

The BRA stalwarts insist that Bookham can only have either a residents’ association or a council. This ignores masses of evidence of PCs and RAs working together for the benefit of the community.

This is what happens less than a mile away in Effingham. The only thing stopping such collaboration here is the BRA’s refusal to put Bookham before its own sense of importance.

Bookham faces serious problems. There is too much litter (unless an election is due!). Speeding is merely one symptom of rising crime and disorder. Drug-dealing, once driven out by residents’ action, has returned. We've even had an outbreak of gun crime. Our youth services are being run down. Our library services are under threat. If we want potholes fixed, we have to wait until Surrey Highways can fit us in.

And there is a strong case for a permanent home for the Meeting Place that once occupied the newsagents in Church Road and now has a temporary home in the Baptist Hall.  

But all the village’s leaders can think about is what will happen to the BRA!

We deserve better. The BRA and its zealots should realise that the decision about a Village Council is not about them. It’s about our future and that of the children who live here.

What is the BRA afraid of?

Within the last month a Bookham resident has issued a challenge to both Be Ambitious for Bookham (BEAM) and the Bookham Residents’ Association (BRA) to debate the pros and cons of installing a Village Council here.

BEAM, a group of residents keen to promote a Village Council for Bookham*, jumped at this chance to set out how a Village Council could protect Bookham’s future, preserve its environment, rebuild the delapidated Youth and Community Centre, and at least make a serious attempt to tackle the flooding in East Street. The Bookham Community Association has stepped in to offer a hall for the debate, free of charge. We now learn the debate will be held on Thursday, April 27.

The BRA took a week to decide to take part.

What are they afraid of? Their main objection to Bookham Village Council is that it would add to residents’ council tax bills. It would, but by nothing like as much as they claim.

On top of that they pile knee-jerk assertions about ‘extra layers of bureaucracy’, when a main reason parish councils exist and thrive all over the country is that they cut bureaucracy, not add to it.

Worst of all, however, is the conceited nonsense that we don’t need a Parish Council because Bookham runs so well without one. A few minutes looking at the examples on the BEAM website should convince anyone that we could do so much better.

* Interest declared: The editor of this website is a member of the BEAM team, but this site is independent of the BEAM campaign. No-one at BEAM was consulted about its content, nor did they know about it in advance or give it their approval.

The BRA has no right to decide whether we have an elected council

For the May 4 votes to be fair, voters have to be well informed about the decision they are taking. So it matters that Bookham residents have the chance to join an informed discussion about what a Parish Council might and might not be able to do for Bookham. How does the BRA justify spending its members’ money to defeat the proposal without first setting out the case for both sides, as it promised it would do?

And how many of its own members did it consult before it plumped so decisively for opposition to the proposal?

The whole point of BEAM’s campaign, on the other hand, has been to give every Bookham voter the chance to take part in a secret ballot, which happens on May 4.

The BRA’s sluggish response to the demand for a public meeting is more of the same. It isn’t good enough. It never was. It’s time for a change.

Vote YES on May 4.

The Bookham Bugle

Editor John Dwyer writes: The Bugle website is now 11 years old. The last news item the Bugle covered, in April 2013, was to announce success for our campaign with Middlemead residents for a safe pedestrian crossing of the Lower Road for children crossing to the recreation ground.

Now, having watched the village elders deal with the promise, for many of us—or as the Bookham Residents’ Association sees it, the threat—of a fully funded, properly elected Village Council, I have to say that the future of our village could hardly be in worse hands.

It is not that anything awful will befall us. But Bookham will keep going downhill, looking scruffier and scruffier, its crime levels continuing to rise, and its services for youth and others falling away.

This special edition of the bugle would not have been necessary if BRA chief enforcer Peter Seaward had kept his promise to put both sides of the case.

The BRA likes to throw its weight about, but until those who insist on running Bookham begin to take as much interest in its future as in their own imagined standing in the community, we will be at the mercy of whatever Mole Valley or Surrey County Council choose to inflict on us.

Everyone who reads this knows that local funding is dwindling to nothing. A Village Council gives you choices about your future. You pay more, yes, but not very much, and it provides at least a cushion against the whims and misery of central and local government.

We don’t need a council, say the BRA.

They don’t speak for the young people who could benefit from a youth centre that looked and felt as if young people were a valued part of the community.

They don’t speak for those who feel threatened by streams of speeding traffic.

They don’t speak for pedestrians who have to walk in the road because of parked cars and overgrown hedges on narrow, neglected pavements.

They don’t speak for those who have lived and worked in parish councils elsewhere before moving here and know their value.

They don’t speak for BRA subscribers who were never asked what they thought before the organisation spend their money on the campaign to defeat a Village Council for Bookham.

What happens now?

You may have made your mind up about the Village Council already. Even so, please read the BEAM newsletter that will come through your letterbox in the next few days.

If you want to know more about the Village Council and what it will mean for you, there is a drop-in session at Little Bookham Village Hall, Little Bookham St, tomorrow, Saturday 22nd April, 9.30am to 11.30am.

And please attend the public debate on Thursday April 27th.

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