Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Just one of those meetings!

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.

Should our MP be given a column?

AN interesting discussion on Facebook last week questioned whether local newspapers should allow MP Oliver Letwin to write a regular column.

Both Matt Puddy, a keen commentator on local affairs, and  boatman/photographer Doug Chalk were of the opinion that writing a column in the Bridport & Lyme Regis News and in the View From series in West Dorset gave Oliver Letwin an unfair advantage over his political opponents.

It is quite common in publishing circles for local newspapers to offer their MP a regular column irrespective of political persuasion.

Oliver Letwin has been writing in the Bridport NewsView from Bridport and View from Dorchester for several years. 

We have only recently extended that courtesy to Mr Letwin to the View from Lyme Regis, mainly because some Tories in Lyme complained that we were showing our political affiliation by not publishing his column.

It is important to make the point that Mr Letwin’s views are not those of this newspaper, which has no political affiliation, nor indeed mine. If he loses the next election, and it could well be a close-run thing, whoever becomes MP will be accorded the privilege of writing a regular column in the View. 

It should also be remembered that an elected MP represents all his constituents, not just those who voted for him, and the column gives all voters the opportunity to see what he is up to at Westminster.

Those who disagree strongly with any views expressed in his column can always put their point of view through out letters page.

Finally, can I make it clear that Mr Letwin receives no fee for his column.


LYME enjoyed a very busy Easter despite it being one of the coldest on record. And with a bitter wind whistling down Broad Street, it was good to see so many entries in the annual Easter Bonnet Parade and a large crowd cheering them on.

This event was the baby of Barbara Austin MBE, sadly no longer with us, so it was essential that the event was as popular as it has always been.

Town crier Alan Vian and his wife Lynne, supported by a number of Regatta and Carnival helpers, and the wonderful Judith Pothecary, who gave Barbara such support over the years, all pitching in to make sure the parade was the usual big attraction.

It always amazes me how many visitors take part in what started out as a purely local event and this year proved no exception.

A special word of praise should go to the Lyme Majorettes who had to brave the cold in their skimpy outfits. Some of the little ones looked positively frozen but won warm applause from the hundreds lining the streets.

Closing Broad Street for the parade turned out to be a real challenge this year with so much traffic passing through Lyme on Easter Day,  but the event went off smoothly and Barbara would have been proud that her special event lives on.

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