Bexhill used to have its own council. It was a source of great civic pride, with its own impressive town hall, a building now occupied by Rother District Council . It was in 1902 that King Edward VII awarded Bexhill a royal charter to become Bexhill Borough Council.
Sadly the council was lost in 1974 when Bexhill and Battle Rural District Council were merged to become the mostly rural Rother District Council. While the 29 parish councils within Battle, including Rye and Battle town councils remained in place, oddly, Bexhill was left without its own council.
In 2015, some concerned citizens organised a petition asking for more democracy and 4,000 people signed it. Legally, this forced Rother to set up a consultation process called the Community Governance Review 2017. To help promote this public consultation, the petitioners set up a voluntary group called Democracy4Bexhill or D4B: a non-party group that wanted the consultation to be open, fair and effective, and which worked to spread the word about the need for better local governance. They campaigned throughout the town, to ensure that Bexhill had its say.
Nine hundred people responded to Phase 1 of Rother’s consultation: twice as many as any previous public consultation held by Rother. In Phase 2, this number rose to a massive nine thousand! This was an unprecedented response to any public consultation. A convincing 93.5% of them wanted a town council. However, Rother said no.
D4B was stunned by this decision, but they decided not to give up and to campaign for better councillors for Rother itself. The local authority elections were held in May 2019, and new candidates were persuaded to stand – some of them from D4B itself. They included Independents, Green Party, LibDem and Labour. Every one stressed their commitment to Bexhill, and featured the “D4B promise” on their literature. If elected, they would support the creation of a town council
On the night, they swept the board. So much so that only one of the Bexhill councillors from the old ruling party, remained. The previous ruling party lost control of the District and has been replaced by an alliance of parties, working together.
One of the first acts of the new Rother was to pass a motion supporting the creation of a town council. By law, another consultation had to be held and this ran from January 13th 2020 for six weeks. The turnout was lower at 2,193, but 78% of the respondents were in favour. Following the establishment of a cross-party steering group with a series of subsequent meetings, the full council finally voted on December 21st 2020 to establish a parish council for Bexhill which would be known as Bexhill Town Council.