Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A compliment by any other name...

AT a council meeting last week this newspaper was described as “colourful” with “imaginative” content.

The words came from Strategy and Policy Committee chairman, Mark Gage, arguably the most powerful member of the council and highly respected by the newly-elected members.  

His description of the View was not intended to be a compliment.

Councillor Gage was prompted to stray into such euphemisms by a direct if not tongue-in-cheek question from fellow new councillor George Symonds who asked him: “Did you apply for the council’s works supervisor job?” 

Councillor Gage emphatically denied that he had, pointing out that he did not have the skills for such a post (salary £22k-£26k) which has still to be filled.

He assumed that Councillor Symonds was asking the question following a piece that appeared in this column when I commented on a rumour rife at the mayor’s civic night that a senior councillor had enquired about applying for the post.

But if Councillor Gage cares to read that piece again he will see that I did not name him as the prospective job-seeker and, indeed, said I did not believe it either. And I went on to explain that it couldn’t happen in any case as a councillor has to be off the council for at least a year before he or she could work for the authority.

There was no intimation, direct or otherwise, that Councillor Gage was interested in the job. Why would he be when he is clearly the rising talent in the new-look council with an increasing influence over his fellow councillors?

Councillor Lucy Campbell was also upset with this newspaper after a comment from a reader, Geoff Mann, one of the founders of the Lyme Regis Development Trust, who questioned whether LymeForward, set up by the trust, should “hold the purse strings” if a Community Land Trust was established in Lyme Regis. 

She said she was tired of being attacked in the local press (i.e. the View) in this “passive but aggressive” manner. Mr Mann’s comments were far from “an attack” and certainly not aggressive; all he did was to highlight her comment that it would be a “waste of resource” not to use LymeForward in the setting up of a land trust. 

Mr Mann’s letter is answered fully elsewhere in this issue by development trust chairman Wendy Davies. 

We encourage our readers to express their views but they are not necessarily those of this newspaper and contrary to the opinion of some members of the trust, I don’t publish every letter that Geoff Mann sends to me. Probably just one in six makes it into our columns. 

I decided to publish this particular letter because Mr Mann was not the only person to question Lyme Forward’s involvement in the land trust. At a previous meeting district councillor Daryl Turner suggested that the people of Lyme should be consulted on “who holds the purse strings”.

Lucy Campbell is the youngest member of the council and did not have it easy when she was first elected. In fact, she was treated quite disgracefully by some members when she first took her seat but won great support from this column in her efforts to bring a fresh, younger perspective to council affairs.

But having been a member now for six years she holds a much more influential position as vice-chairman of the all-powerful Strategy and Policy Committee and is now a combative debater on all the main issues, one of the most prolific and eloquent speakers in the council chamber, as well as fronting one of the council’s leading projects, the delivery of a skateboard park which generates strong opinions on both sides.

With a much higher profile in the new council comes greater scrutiny and accountability, not necessarily by this newspaper but by the electorate. 

In the last election Lucy topped the town council poll and she should draw great confidence from this when public opinion is sometimes out of kilter with her own views. 

In local government you cannot win every battle. The secret is to win the big ones. And if she delivers a skatepark in the life of this council, that will be a massive one.

ONE job that all mayors detest is chairing the annual town meeting. It’s the one occasion the electorate get to air their grievances and complaints and there’s been some very lively and uncomfortable meetings over the years.

It’s where the council committee chairmen give a review of their work, which is usually very boring and no one takes much notice. 

The interesting bit comes when the meeting is thrown open to the floor.

Last Friday’s annual meeting ran true to form with mayor Sally Holman being given a particularly hard time on staffing matters (usually a taboo subject at pubic meetings). 

Resident Derek Hallett refused to sit down when asked by the mayor and new councillor George Symonds also stood his ground on the same subject.

The meeting was attended by just 22 members of the electorate in addition to councillors and officials. That’s less than one per cent of the voting pubic.

Such a poor attendance means that, generally speaking, the electorate is pleased with how the council is running the town... or they couldn’t care less.

I suspect it’s the latter.

CONGRATULATIONS to Fran Williams and Ayvin Rogers on being invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace in the summer.

They received their invitation in this special royal year for all their hard work in securing the funding from the Jubilee People’s Millions for The Hub youth club. Few will know or appreciate how much work Fran and Ayvin put into the project. They deserve this recognition.

If my experience last year when my family and I were invited to a similar event is anything to go by, it will be a day they will never forget. 

THE Hub is open. Long live The Hub!

After all the frustrations in securing the building, the worry of finding the money and the bad publicity when a few over-zealous youngsters ruined the first opening nights, all was forgotten at Saturday’s’ official opening by the Mayor Sally Holman.

You only had to see the smiles on the faces of the kids present to know it was all worthwhile.

Let’s hope The Hub fulfils the aspirations of all those close to the project and provides the town’s young people with a meeting place they deserve.

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