By Councillor Tony Gibbs:
Open Letter to Bude and Stratton Community Alliance
As a current Bude and Stratton Town Councillor and specifically the Chairman of the Communities Committee, I would like to respond to some of the points raised by the creation of the Bude-Stratton Community Alliance (BSCA) ahead of the local elections in May.
I was co-opted onto the Council just over 3 years ago and have been the Chair of the Communities Committee for over 2 years and a member of several other committees. I joined the Town Council because I was in the fortunate position of being able to choose pretty much anywhere in the world to live, I chose Bude. I chose on the basis of its location but also, most importantly, its community and ‘feel’. Because of that, I felt strongly that I wanted to contribute and make a difference to the local community.
In the time I have been a Council member I have met many amazing people with real passion and love for Bude and the surrounding area, it has been a truly inspirational time. I have been fortunate to work with a great team of Council Staff and Mayor who has provided a clear vision ensuring that the Council operates in a transparent and fair way, a vision I wholly endorse and hope to have contributed to. This, rightly so, has made Council business more accessible and has led to greater community engagement and scrutiny.
In my time as the Chair of the Communities Committee, we have engaged positively with the Neetside Community Centre with projects that will make a real difference and I currently act as the BSTC rep on the recently formed Social Action Fund. On behalf of the council, I also sit on the panel overseeing the management of the Bude Canal.
I was the first councillor to engage with The Pearl Exchange and through negotiation and leadership helped establish their base at the Pitch and Putt building on Summerleaze Downs. I also began the conversation that has led to the production of BSTCs new communication strategy, which has engagement with the community at its core, as demonstrated by recent public consultations and redesign of the BSTC website.
In the margins, I have also been engaged with the Community Network Panel in the development of the Town Councils strategic plan which, I believe, will provide the framework and vision for the Town Council engagement with the wider area and County Council into the medium and long term, creating opportunities to protect our environment but also managed growth for the benefit of all. I was also a strong supporter for the declaration of a climate emergency by BSTC and intend to ensure that the right decisions are made to reach its declared objectives.
I feel strongly that great progress has been made, it is far from perfect, but evidence shows that we are creating opportunities whilst recognising the fragility of the environment and climate change impacts.
I have absolutely no political allegiances, I belong to no groups and do not consider myself an activist outside of my work as a Councillor. So why am I saying all of this?
Whilst I fully endorse the objectives and aspirations of the BSCA I am deeply concerned that, on the face of it, all of the things I have stated above as fact are not recognised. There is no recognition of the efforts made to overcome some of the historic and deep-seated beliefs and culture in order to achieve the things we have so far. There is also the implication that the beliefs, ways of working and core values stated by the BSCA are things that BSTC does not have now, and I truly believe it does. In fact, most of these are covered in the normal code of conduct used by BSTC as produced by the National Association of Local Councils. Also, interestingly, there are two current Council members who are part of the BSCA, so if they feel so strongly that the current council does not recognise appropriate ways of working they have had ample opportunity to make their voice heard during the period of this council.
With all of that in mind, I am most concerned about the ability of the council to be truly representative of the whole of the local community. If the only way to be put forward as a candidate is to agree and join the group then it effectively bars people such as myself for no other reason than wishing to remain truly independent, free-thinking and accepting that all points made are valid.
I stand as a Councillor for no other reason than for my love of the area and the people who live here. I honestly believe that I have a positive track record for change and would like to have the opportunity to continue that work into the future. I was certain that I wanted to stand as a Councillor in the May elections but because of this development, I am seriously considering if it is really worth the effort. So perhaps this group will not create independence and true representation and actually achieve the exact opposite.
Editor’s note: any other councillor/prospective candidate representation to this page is welcome before the pre-election purdah period.