A voice for Rye and Winchelsea

Where do you think the most generous area of the UK is for charitable giving? I recently did a little research to find out and I was fairly surprised to find out that Manchester often tops the poll while other sources put the London Borough of Hounslow or the Isle of Wight close to the top.

What prompted me to go down this particular rabbit hole was some of the recent contributions to Rye News that seemed to call into question the public spirited nature of our community, such as being encouraged to clean Rye’s public loos ourselves. I know Rye to be a uniquely generous town with an active social, business, arts and charitable sector I believe unmatched for such a relatively small (in numbers, not stature) town.

Likewise, take a look at Winchelsea Magazine (apologies to Rye News!) and you will see an amazing and varied cultural and charitable life that means between the two communities we punch far above our weight. I absolutely appreciate the will to get involved and better our communities, to show up and get things done but I do think there is a balance to be struck between expecting decent services that we have all paid for via our council tax such as clean loos and sensible recycling for businesses and getting stuck in to give support where councils and government aren’t already funding 100%.

Some examples of this kind of public spirited generosity were on display at the recent Love Our Rother event when the true nature of our community was on display, people who give their time, in this case for the betterment of our environment.

Cllr Cheryl Creaser of Rye Town Council and I are the Labour candidates for Rye and Winchelsea in May’s Rother District Council elections and when we visited the Love Our Rother event at the community centre we left feeling humbled by the enthusiasm, ingenuity and expertise in the room from local folk who give their time freely and generously. Of course, there are many examples of similar generosity in our communities including our town council itself whose members give their time voluntarily. In the fight to save Rye pool I am glad to see Rye Town Council taking a lead and I know many of my neighbours and friends feel the same. Of course Ryers with many more years’ residence than me will remember raising money for the pool, paid for in large part as it was by locals and meaning our stake in it is far more than a solely financial one.

Given the historical “can do” attitude of the town linking to present day equivalents: quizzes for the hospital (also famously kept open by locals when threatened with closure), Bonfire fundraisers, the newly independent food bank, the campaign to save Rye Hire and the everyday acts of kindness and neighbourliness we will all be aware of and hopefully part of, I believe it is wrong that in Rye and Winchelsea we have not benefitted from the kind of active representation we deserve at Rother District Council level.

This has also been discussed recently in Rye News prompting a response not from either of our current councillors but by Cllr Mier who represents Southern Rother on Rother District Council. As interesting and informative as Cllr Mier’s contribution was, and I do not want to add to any of the recent slightly hectoring tone of some of the discussions on these pages by criticising Cllr Mier who did at least respond thoughtfully, the fact that he was left to put pen to paper and not either of our other local councillors does prove the point that there continues to be a lack of leadership and representation from our current local Rother councillors.

Of course, I hope to see that change in May at our local elections when I aspire to do my bit for our community, to use my experience of 35 years working in the care sector including as a trustee for mental health and homelessness charities to be an effective voice for all of us in Rye and Winchelsea and make sure we have a seat at the table alongside the rest of Rother.

One thing I know won’t change is the generous, warm and open-hearted nature of our communities which is why I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen us listed with the most generous areas in the country. I genuinely expected us to be up there but at least we were beaten by such places as Manchester and a couple of London Boroughs. Maybe next year, if we raise our voice starting with mine and Cllr Cheryl Creaser’s.

Image Credits: Rob Brown .

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