Councillor Robert Smart, a retired international businessman and professional accountant has been elected as Group Leader of the Conservative Group on Eastbourne Borough Council.
He pays fulsome tributes to the work of his predecessors, Tony Freebody and his Deputy, Penny di Cara, who has been Acting Group Leader since the start of the Covid crisis.
Cllr Freebody said,
‘As many people know my job within the NHS has taken precedence lately and that needs to continue, so my decision to step down as group leader needs to be a permanent one. It has been a huge privilege to lead our group over the past 5 years and I wish to thank the group who have been fantastic at supporting me. I wish to also thank Penny Di Cara for her support as my deputy and also for her work in leading the group in the past few months.
I wish Robert Smart all the best as our new group leader. Robert has my full support and I’ll continue to support him in his new role.’
Robert, re-elected as a Meads Councillor in May 2019, believes that Eastbourne is a wonderful town but could be even better. He intends to work with the LibDem administration but also to provide robust opposition where appropriate.
He recognises areas where the Council has performed well but has been a staunch critic in other areas, particularly in finance.
At recent Cabinet meetings he has referred to the totally unacceptable absence of three year’s figures. The audited accounts for 2018/19 have yet to be finalised, figures for 2019/20 and the “Budget Book” for the current year, 2020/21, have not been released. “We and the Eastbourne public are in the dark regarding finances”, and the precarious financial position of the Council existed before the Covid crisis,”says Robert.
The Conservative central government are providing unprecedented funding in many forms to individuals, businesses and local authorities and a response to the most recent application by Eastbourne is awaited. It is just deflection from the precarious financial position that preceded Covid by this LibDem administration to have blamed central government for its predicament.
Apart from the unacceptable absence of three year’s figures, democratic accountability has become almost non-existent in recent months through the cancellation of public meetings. “I will be pressing immediately for the resumption of a full set of public meetings, by video if necessary to meet social distancing requirements”, added Robert. “Other local authorities have managed them.”