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Crunch Time for Friends of Eastbourne Seafront

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

After just 5 months of campaigning, the Bandstand and then the seafront as our focus, we have reached a bit of a crisis.

We have always stressed we are a non political group that attacks policies not politics. Unfortunately as the current council have been in power for 15 years, it does mean that the policies we have been attacking, mainly the neglect of the seafront, have been those of the current Lib Dem Council and they seem to have taken it personally.

Until now we have enjoyed the advantage of contacting who we like, either on the council or working for the council, in our effort to get answers to questions and to move projects forward. We have established some good working relationships and made a number of useful go-to contacts.

A couple of weeks ago the Council announced the appointment of a new cabinet officer role. One of the functions of this role was to champion the seafront. We welcomed this as a positive sign the council had been listening to us and were beginning to make the seafront a priority. However they also announced that from now on all communications of all seafront groups were to go via this one person and whatever direct contacts we had made were no longer to be used. We protested that this did not make sense - if we knew which officer to contact surely it was more efficient to contact them directly and copy this new person in and not create an extra layer of communication and additional work. We also pointed out that the sheer volume of communications this one person would have to deal with, if acting as a communication funnel for all 40+ seafront organisations, would lead to inevitable delays and frustrations. Furthermore it also had to be mentioned that Friends of Eastbourne Seafront and the officer appointed had not had the easiest of relationships in the past. This was not helped at all by accusations of political bias by the group on her personal page just a couple of days in to her new job and then further damaged when she announced the creation of a CiC, Friends of Eastbourne Bandstand, without any consultation with any community groups including Friends of Eastbourne Seafront for whom the Bandstand had been a central focus from the very beginning.

So we have to find a way forward. We want to continue to work productively with the council and the council officers as we have been doing. We are eager to establish a better relationship with the new seafront 'czar' and she appears to be feeling likewise.

If we continue as we are, challenge the council when we see fit, and attempt to communicate with who we need to, we risk being gagged, cut off, side lined, left dead in the water.

We have been told that one of us may be invited to become part of this new CiC, but part of the reason we did not go down that route when we formed our own not for profit company limited by guarantee, was that you can no longer be seen as acting in a political manner, so again we would risk being silenced and disenfranchised if we took that route.

The sensible solution would seem to be - be positive and offer to work alongside the council officer concerned. Friends of Eastbourne Seafront have so much to gain and to offer from this arrangement. For our part we get to send a representative to the bandstand CiC meetings, be part of the wider seafront strategy meetings and meet other like minded people. In return we can offer our team of volunteers, our ability to put on events, the support of our Facebook groups and members, our ability to put in bids for grant funding, our ability to contribute towards surveys and produce reports and perhaps the strongest contribution we can offer our comprehensive vision for the seafront from Holywell to the Harbour, produced after talking to thousands of residents, visitors and businesses.

The eventual choice however will be that of the members of Friends of Eastbourne Seafront. If you want to be part of that decision become a member and email us to book a place at our meeting, this Thursday 7th July, 7pm at the Crown and Anchor.

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