Accusations of a West Sussex democracy ‘sham’

Protesters outside County Hall in 2011, in the early days of the county's austerity measures
Protesters outside County Hall in 2011, in the early days of the county's austerity measures

VIEWS of the public in a county council survey are not ‘statistically significant’.

This was the opinion of West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for finance as he announced the county faced years of austerity until 2021.

Michael Brown told the county’s performance and finance select committee on Friday (October 3) the Tory council hoped to continue freezing council tax for the foreseeable future.

However, he was challenged by UKIP on why there was currently a public consultation, asking residents’ views on budget issues ahead of the 2015/16 financial year.

“It does reinforce this suspicion in the back of my mind that some consultations are verging on the charlatan,” said UKIP leader Michael Glennon.

“If we’re not going to take it on board to that degree, it’s rather laughable to ask people what they want.”

Cllr Brown said the council always consulted at this time about its proposals.

“In the past, because this has been an online consultation, this has not been overwhelming,” he said.

We’re making a considerable effort to expand the number of people that are captured by the consultation.”

He said West Sussex was a ‘democratic’ organisation, and all the 71 councillors were elected by their constituents to make important decisions.

“To be honest, the government don’t require us to spend enough money to make it statistically significant,” he told 
Cllr Glennon.

“The key decisions will be made by the elected members, not by people that partake in surveys.”

The council leader Louise Goldsmith was at the meeting and she said the county did take note of people’s response to 
the survey.

After the meeting, a statement was released by campaign group Don’t Cut Us Out, claiming the council ignored previous responses to public consultations.

Margaret Guest, the group’s chairman, said a freedom of information request showed answers to last year’s results were not taken into account.

“This year’s attempt to involve residents in discussing budget priorities is another sham exercise,” said Mrs Guest.