Residents and businesses back new Beckenham council
Residents and businesses have backed a campaign for a new council for one of the borough's busiest towns.
Former councillor Rod Reed, is lobbying for Beckenham to have its own government, completely independent of Bromley council’s rule.
On Tuesday the Times asked people in the town what they thought of the idea and the overwhelming majority supported it. With around just 10,000 signatures Bromley council would be legally obliged to hold a review into releasing Beckenham from its power.
Mr Reed claims ‘ultra localism’ would be more cost effective and provide a better deal for residents as services would be tailored specifically to their wants and needs.
He said: “It is in everyone’s interest. The north end of the borough has struggled to get resources- we lost the hospital and the police station meanwhile Bromley council is sitting on £50million. It is not a question of if Beckenham has its own council but when.”
The town had its own council for 30 years until 1964. Mr Reed said its successes included lobbying for an extension to the Cottage Hospital, a joint maternity hospital for Beckenham and Penge, a fire station in Glebe Way, the opening of two libraries and the Odeon cinema in Elmers End.
Charity shop volunteer Gene Skinner said: “I am all for returning to a locally run Beckenham. I remember when it had its own council. Beckenham has its own identity and in a way still feels like a village. When there was a local council it was local people making local decisions.”
Mr Reed, who was once an independent MP candidate for the town, needs to collect signatures for 10 per cent of the proposed area’s electorate. The petition would have to clearly define where would be governed - Mr Reed envisages Beckenham, West Wickham and Penge - and include one or more recommendations which signatories want Bromley council to investigate. Mr Reed claims the review would effectively be a referendum for the potential new council.
He said: “At this early stage new priorities might include planning powers, housing priorities, heritage and arts promotion, highways and rejuvenating the local economy and high streets.”
Resident Zoe Hannam, writing on Beckenham Town website, said: “In my experience the council are currently drowning in red tape and do not have the resources or experience to tackle the real issues at grass roots level.
“Given the current economic climate, communities need to return to simple, logical, ethical and cost effective ways of working. The waves of this recession now bring to the surface the costs and structure of local authorities. I ask are civil servants serving their communities?”
The new coalition Government is in favour of devolving powers. Secretary of State for communities and local government Eric Pickles, said: “The department has three priorities, localism, localism and localism.
“We want to use local parish and town councils to pass down power to them and through them to community groups. We want to make neighbourhoods the essential building blocks for service delivery and finance. Further we are going to introduce very significant incentives for neighbourhoods, like parish and town councils, who wish to accept new developments.”
A spokesperson for Bromley council said: “The council confirms that a letter has been received about this issue.”