Campaigners are expected to pack into a meeting of Canterbury City Council tonight (Thursday) for a debate on whether the ruling councillors should resign. More than 3,300 people signed a petition calling for all ten members of the council’s executive committee to step down over the Westgate Towers traffic trial and other issues.
The discussion is open to all 50 members of the council, who are expected to agree to lift the 15-minute time restriction normally imposed for petition debates. The campaign is headed by Debbie Barwick, of vintage shop Revivals, although a similar petition organised by Manny Armario of Whatever Comics was handed to council leaders in May last year. He had called for council leader John Gilbey to resign. Mrs Barwick said she was still planning her speech to councillors. She said:
“I’m leaving it as late as possible to work out what I want to say, in fact I might have three minutes’ silence for the death of democracy. There is no way of knowing what will happen on the night, either about the time limit or the debate itself, but if they decide to restrict the length of the debate that goes against what is democratic, which Is ironic given that is what the petition is about.”
The campaign is backed by Marcus Bentley, the voice of Big Brother, who lives in Station Road West, as well as businesses and residents. John Hippisley, chairman of the Canterbury Independent Traders Association, organised a Bah Humbug march in December in protest at the council’s refusal to pay for Christmas lights. He said:
“They should be ashamed but it seems they are so out of touch with the public mood they will no doubt find someone else to blame. He (Mr Gilbey) should do the decent thing and fall on his sword before he makes his own party unelectable in the future. Mr Gilbey and his kow-towing supporters in the Guildhall take more than enough out of Canterbury and give precious little back.”
The meeting starts at 7pm at the Guildhall in Canterbury and is open to the public.
Other matters that have angered voters
Other council decisions that have enraged voters include the lack of budget for Christmas lights, a decision to cut the opening hours of museums and plans for a massive hike in beach hut rents. Although Herne Bay volunteers arranged their own Christmas lights this year, Whitstable’s were delayed on a slow boat from China and Canterbury had none other than those provided by Whitefriars after councillors slashed funding. Officials argued that lights were a luxury. but protesters said they were essential in a cathedral city.
Museums in Herne Bay and Whitstable will close for the winter as part of a proposal to save cash, and will only be open four days a week for the rest of the year. The Canterbury Heritage Museum is also affected, angering campaigners who say they are vital to the area’s tourism economy. And beach hut campaigners are expected to pack meetings this month to hear a debate on proposals from the council to increase site rent by up to 360 per cent.
Herne Bay Times, January 9th 2014