Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Going soft on the council - who me?
TWO people stopped me in town this week to say they thought I was going soft on the council. In fact they both went as far as to accuse me of being polite to our elected representatives.
They had noticed that an element of praise was creeping into my comments on the performance of the town council in recent weeks.
I hold my hand up to saying recently that there was very little else the council could do down at Monmouth Beach, other than to ensure the safety of those who occupy the chalets threatened by the continuing landslides and to keep people away from the creeping cliffs.
But I can’t recall adopting a more sycophantic attitude than normal on other matters. I am often accused of being too negative in this column but I think if you look at them over a period of time the positives of life in Lyme Regis far outweigh any criticisms of the way the town is run.
I rarely miss an opportunity of highlighting Lyme’s wonderful community spirit and those who work so hard to make it such a special place to live and work.
Someone asked me not so long ago what gave me the right to criticise those in public office. I do it not to make myself unpopular among the councillors (which I clearly am) but because I think local democracy is in mortal danger. At county and district level, as we reported last week, it’s virtually dead with the cabinet system so predominant.
At local level I also fear for the democratic process. I am opposed to a cartel of councillors predetermining issues and voting in groups. All decisions should be made after reasoned public debate and far too much decision making is influenced by emails between councillors to which the public have no access or knowledge. It’s one of the great dangers of this digital age.
However, lively debate there certainly was in the council chamber last week when Monmouth Beach was the cause of the longest council meeting in recent times. Thankfully, I wasn’t present. Had I been, I’m not sure I would still have been there at 10:30pm when the Mayor finally adjourned the meeting, with Monmouth Beach being the only main agenda item dealt with.
And whilst I’m well and truly on my soapbox, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not opposed to the skatepark project in Lyme, a rumour being perpetuated by some councillors.
The young people of Lyme deserve such a facility; after all there is a skatepark in virtually every other town in Dorset - and they have waited far too long. It’s a pity that the skatepark will end up in a position (Charmouth Road car park) which would not have been anyone’s favoured location, but Lyme’s geographical location does throw up particular problems with regard to finding a suitable site.
My main beef is a simple one. I don’t think there has been enough focus on local fundraising in the past with over reliance on council funding.
I think the council was over generous in saying they would give the project £25,000 for three years. They should have put in a place a proposal whereby the council match-funded whatever was raised locally up to a maximum of £25,000.
There is now a greater focus on fundraising and with Cheryl Reynolds being drafted in to put her natural optimism, energy and commitment to good use, with others doing their bit, I have no doubt the necessary funding will be secured without further call on the public purse. I know from all the projects I have been associated with over the years, the sense of achievement is always heightened when you have raised the money yourselves.
I spotted Cheryl in Broad Street selling tickets for Sunday’s duck race in aid of the skatepark project. I also noticed she was on her own with no other visible support. I suspect she will have sold most of the tickets, resulting in the magnificent sum of £1,200 being raised.
So let me reiterate that I support the skatepark project 100 per cent and I hope it will not be too long before the skateboarding enthusiasts of Lyme and district can demonstrate their talent in an exciting and safe environment.
ACCORDING to last week’s column, the forthcoming Lyme Folk Festival is going to be one of the longest festivals on record. I inadvertently said it would take place over the weekend April 30th to September 1st. Of, course, I meant August 30th to September 1st.
Just put it down to senility!
OUR civic leaders were in a celebratory mood over the weekend with two birthday parties to attend.
On Saturday most councillors and town council staff were present at the secret 60th birthday party for retiring town clerk Mike Lewis.
Mike thought he was going to the cinema when he was diverted to the Woodmead Halls where 80 or so guests were lying in wait to surprise him as he came through the door.
Well done to his wife Vivienne and children for organising a really nice occasion.
On Sunday afternoon it was the turn of Mayor Sally Holman to celebrate her birthday, shared with the Reverend Keith Vivian, pictured above. I can reveal that Keith was marking his 86th birthday but it would be very ungallant of me to reveal the mayor’s age.
Again there was a large contingent of councillors and their partners present together with church members and Sally’s sailing friends who toasted two of our most respected citizens.