WELL, I nearly got it right. A few weeks ago I offered, somewhat tongue in cheek, odds of 12-1 that Chris Clipson would be our next mayor, although I did say that Sally Holman serving a third term was a good outside bet.
I’ve never been very good at picking winners of the four-legged kind and so it proved with the choosing of the mayor elect.
By the time it got to last Wednesday’s council meeting it was pretty common knowledge that it would be a two-horse race and it seemed that Sally would be first past the post. The big surprise to everyone was that the council’s most influential member, Mark Gage, chairman of the all-powerful Strategy and Policy Committee, would not be present at the meeting. Councillor Gage tendered his apologies as he was on holiday.
I’m not sure his presence would have altered the decision to give Sally a third term. With Councillor Chris Clipson being one of the “gang of four” that put up at the last election, catapulting Councillor Gage into the top job, it is likely that he would have voted for Councillor Clipson.
Had he done so, there would have been six votes cast for each candidate so Sally would have been required to have exercised her right to a casting vote. Not the ideal way to elect a mayor but it has happened on several occasions in the past.
But it was a significant vote. Since the last election the new faces on the council, led by Councillor Gage, have won virtually every vote, many of them ten votes to four. This was the biggest vote they had lost and shows that not everything is cut and dried, which is a good thing for local democracy.
With the council split asunder by so many issues, there were a number of councillors who felt it important to have an experienced and steady hand on the tiller.
If the position of mayor survives, I am sure Chris Clipson, who has thrown himself into the role of councillor with great gusto, will get another chance to serve as First Citizen.
Wednesday was one of those meetings that occasionally happen in the Guildhall. It was not a good advertisement for local government. I don’t know what new member Jill Newton, who has filled the vacancy left by Barbara Austin, thought of it.
“What have I done?” might well have been her reaction.
Don’t worry Jill, it will get better.
There has been much falling out over the dispute with the Woodmead Halls over the running of the public toilets. When we reported that there was a veiled threat to withdraw the free parking passes for volunteers, I wrote in this column that it was likely to be a huge PR faux pas. And so it has proved.
Common sense has prevailed, as usually happens after a spat like this, parking passes have been renewed and a new agreement is being prepared for signature.
The council now has more important issues to occupy them, not least all the problems at Monmouth Beach.
And there’s a new town clerk and deputy town clerk in place to learn the ropes.