The town hall shuts down

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Town councillors keep their distance when meeting in the Buttermarket on Monday night. At the back (sitting) mayor Mike Boyd, in the middle (standing) deputy mayor Rebekah Gilbert with her dog Sophie, and in front of the railings (leaning) former mayor Jonathan Breeds.

It could have been a scene (shown above) from a historical drama as Rye town councillors gathered six feet apart, on Monday March 23, for their last meeting for an indefinite period outside in the Buttermarket under the historic town hall.

As some councillors were self isolating, some ten councillors met in order to sign over the powers of delegated authority to the town clerk so that business could go on as normal, whatever normal is now.

They received an update from Anthony Kimber about the Heritage Centre, now run by a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) with a five year lease from the council and the new owners of the town model. The Centre will continue to be known as the Rye Heritage Centre and use the same branding.

Sadly though, due to the global pandemic, opening will be delayed into the summer months, but the people behind the CIO have worked tirelessly with great help and support from the town clerk to get the the Centre into a state of preparedness to welcome visitors as soon as they are able to travel again.

Bedecked in mask and goggles, Anthony Kimber (in a different role) went on to inform the group that REACT (Rye’s emergency action team of volunteers) is working in partnership with the newly formed Rye Mutual Aid group to help the most needy and vulnerable members of our community, with the former leading on strategical matters, and the group amassing volunteers to help deliver food and vital medicines to those unable to leave their homes.

Caroline Drummond has done sterling work with Jen Sinclair and others, the council heard, and have gathered together over 600 volunteers to work in Rye and the villages – an incredible achievement in just a few days, so much so that their model is being rolled out through East Sussex as one of best practice.

They have had to consider regulations such as data protection, health and safety training, and the logistics of getting protective equipment to the volunteers in less than a week. They were thanked wholeheartedly by all, and the town council will help them to purchase items such as gloves and masks so that they can be bought quickly. For details of how to access the mutual aid group see their website.

Formalities such as the monitoring of the budget and apologies were whizzed through and the planning meeting scheduled for after the town council meeting was aborted.

Until such times as life can return to normal, the town hall will be closed and employees will work from home (see below); weddings and meetings have been postponed and the town steward will do his best to keep working whilst he can. The town council recognised how fortunate we are to have such active and willing volunteers to rally around for the community and for Anthony Kimber’s considerable input this week.

A summary of the current situation has also been circulated stating that:

Council / Committee / Working Group meetings : These have been suspended for the foreseeable future. The council is waiting to hear if there is a lawful way to appoint a new mayor / chairman in May (currently this can be done only at an ‘in person’ meeting).

Decision making: The council has delegated the making of pressing decisions to the town clerk (subject to informal consultation with members and any relevant parties). If the town clerk is incapacitated this responsibility will pass to the deputy town clerk.

Events: The St George’s Day service, Mayor Making events / activities and 75th anniversary of VE Day have been, or will almost certainly be, cancelled.

Weddings at the town hall: As of Monday, March 23 these have been banned by the government for 21 days – it is anticipated that this period will be extended. Ceremonies are being rescheduled to take place no earlier than September 2020.

Town Hall: This was closed to personal visitors on Monday, March 23. As from Wednesday, March 25 the town clerk and deputy town clerk will work from home. Calls to the town hall (01797 223902) will be redirected to them. It is anticipated that the town hall is likely to be closed until at least the end of June, possibly July.

Rye Information Point: The opening has been postponed, as has the re-opening of the Heritage Centre.

The Town Steward will endeavour to continue with this service – particularly grass cutting – for as long as is practicable/permitted.

Image Credits: Anthony Kimber .

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