Q&A with the new Leader of Worthing Borough Council - Dr Beccy Cooper
Released: Friday, 27 May 2022
Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper became the Leader of Worthing Borough Council on Friday 20th May 2022, pledging to work closely with the community on everything from dog bins to climate change.
A week after taking charge, she spoke about how she's settling in, what her top priorities are - and how Worthing can become one of the top places to live in the UK.
Q. You have now been Leader of the Council for a week. What are your first impressions of the role. Has anything surprised you?
My first impressions have been really positive. All the Council staff that I have met have been friendly and definitely curious about the new kids on the block! My favourite conversations so far have been with the ever-professional Dawson on reception and the customer services team, who know exactly what is going well and what's not for the people who use our services - they have their fingers on the pulse!
I was surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the level of kindness and good wishes we've received. In politics, you get used to people not being best pleased with you, or frustrated that you can't do more - or potentially combative when you don't agree with them. But kindness is not something we always come across and I agree with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that it is greatly undervalued in politics. It can inspire you to do great things (and hopefully that will be the case with this administration!).
Q. What are the first things on your to-do list?
We are hitting the ground running with our 100-day plan. Top of the list are our Big Listening and Big Clean-Up campaigns. These will allow us to build that all-important trust between Council and the community, showing how taking pride in our public spaces can benefit us all. The cost of living emergency is also a priority, making sure we are ready and able to help all our residents as we head into a potentially very difficult winter. This will mean supporting community organisations that are already delivering essential help, making sure our benefits system is accessible and starting to address the dire shortage of social housing in our town. And starting to meet our climate change commitments - greening our public spaces, encouraging green businesses and protecting our precious shoreline.
Q. How will residents recognise your approach to running the Council?
We are a listening-first Council. We will open up meetings for public and community discussion. We'll be out and about in our local neighbourhoods listening to people's ideas and asking for feedback on ours. And we'll be making decisions that are rooted in fairness, prioritising our residents' wellbeing and the wellbeing of our planet.
Q. How would you describe your leadership style?
I have been really fortunate in my career to have worked with lots of people in many different settings, so my leadership style has evolved to be both firm and flexible as required! I enjoy hearing differing points of view on a subject, testing these against my own principles and then using all this information to find a pragmatic and workable solution. I can be impatient when I think things could be moving more effectively, but years of working in the healthcare sector have given me an understanding that every person has a lot to offer, if we take the time to listen.
Q. You are planning a Big Listening event with Worthing residents. What will that mean and how can people get involved?
The Big Listening campaign is going to start this summer and will be an opportunity for all the residents of Worthing to tell us what they think about our plans for the town, at a number of venues across the borough. This will become an ongoing feature of how we work as a Council, creating community groups where we can put funding and decision-making directly into where it will be used.
We campaigned on our manifesto and are committed to delivering against those pledges. But we will make sure that our ideas are what the people of Worthing really want. So for example, we are committed to greening and revitalising our town centre, with great, safe community spaces that everyone can enjoy. But how exactly should that look? Should there be lots of seating in Montague Place? Should we have water features outside the Guildbourne Centre? Should there be a children's play area in the town centre? We want to be creative and imaginative in partnership with our residents to create a beautiful and sustainable town.
Q. There are several large sites that are set to be developed in the heart of Worthing. What are your thoughts on them?
Sites such as Teville Gate and Union Place need to be developed sustainably and at pace as part of the wider plan for our town centre. A piecemeal approach to development where we dig up a road without due regard to the surrounding area, the wishes of the residents or the climate change emergency must be a thing of the past. These sites need to tell the story of Worthing - fair, green developments that benefit our residents now and for many generations to come.
Q. How do you want people to judge your administration's work over the next 12 months and beyond?
We will deliver against the pledges that we made in our manifesto, “A Council for the Community.” Some can be delivered in the first 12 months, but others will take time to develop and realise their full potential. All along, we want to demonstrate that our principles of fairness and social justice are the bedrock, delivering a thriving, safe town for us all.
Q. Finally, what do you think are the strengths of Worthing as a place to live?
Worthing has all the ingredients to be one of the best towns in the United Kingdom to live in and to visit. A stunning coastline, a border with beautiful countryside and communities that are brimming with energy, compassion and imagination. As a Council, it is first and foremost our job to work alongside those communities to ensure that all that potential is realised and supported, and to create a green and blue landscape across our town that reflects all the beauty that surrounds us.
Cllr Dr Beccy Cooper
Page last updated: 23 June 2022