Wednesday, 20 November 2013


SANDY West, 64, is the community life champion at Asda supermarket in Weymouth. She was born and went to school in Plymouth before moving to Liverpool when her father came out of the Royal Navy. She worked as a proof reader for the Liverpool Jewish Gazette which she said “being from a Welsh Catholic-Liverpool Irish Prody family was a bit of an odd job!” Sandy married in the same Liverpool registry office as Beatle John Lennon and moved to Portland on her wedding day, July 29th, 1967.  She has now lived on the island for 46 years and is a borough councillor and former town mayor of Portland. She has worked at Asda, Weymouth, for 14 years.

WHY do you live on Portland?
Because Portland is the most beautiful place with a great community and community spirit. I also feel proud that it is the base for the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy because I am very keen on sailing.

WHERE do you go for your holidays?
I holiday in this country, Birmingham, Liverpool, Plymouth or I just take day trips from Portland because there is so much to see round here. I love walking and the sculpture park.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year?
Autumn because it is a mellow time. Colours are constantly changing and it is a lovely time before winter sets in.

WHAT is your favourite film?
Gone With The Wind. I have seen it 124 times and love it. If not that then All Quiet on the Western Front, the original black and white one, not the remakes.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was younger my oldest brother locked me in a cupboard at night and told my mum and dad that I had gone to bed. I was terrified because then I was frightened of the dark.

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be?
I would be an army nurse. That was one of my ambitions, but I got married instead.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Nelson Mandela because I was inspired by his fight for freedom, the Dalai Lama because I like the warm feeling and peacefulness of Buddhism and Dawn French because she is a Plymouth girl and very funny.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would give some to charity, some to my family and then I would go mental and just buy a shoe shop and spend all day trying them on because I love shoes. Then I’d give them to charity when I got fed up with them.

WHAT do you hope the future holds?
I would like to see world peace and I would also hope that I am able to carry on having as much fun as I do now.

The confusing world of local politics

WHAT an interesting if confusing place the world of local politics is.

Two recent decisions saw chalets and other facilities at Greenhill, Weymouth, potentially prepared for having their leases put out on the open market as the council seeks to make savings while Weymouth Angling Society was only granted a three-year lease for its Commercial Road building despite extensive lobbying for a ten-year lease.

Now our councillors have an increasingly tough row to hoe because of Government cutbacks which have effectively seen the budget they manage shrivel from £13 million to about £9 million.

They must use that to somehow conjure up essential services and keep as many residents happy as possible, not an easy task and I have some sympathy with their dilemma.

However – and there always is an “however” – the two debates brought into focus the fact that sometimes it is possible to miss seeing the wood for the trees.

The chalets actually made money for years, so where has that gone and are there any unfortunate parallels between how the council used that cash and how it used the harbour cash….and we all know what happened with the harbour wall suddenly needing massive repairs.

The chalet scenario embraces the wider stumbling block that the council just can’t afford much needed repairs and is testing the market to see if a way forward can be found, something which didn’t cut much ice with the chalet owners.

Both they and the angling fraternity were bitterly critical of how the council interpreted “consultation” to the obvious embarrassment of our elected members, one of whom at least had the courage to publicly describe it as “an almighty cock-up”.

The anglers were not just angry but confused as well after having heard the council’s management committee say their new lease had to be three years to safeguard possible future development plans for that section of the harbourside.

Members told the anglers that three years was plenty because if no redevelopment emerged during that time then the three year lease could simply be extended.

All this is perfectly accurate but it seemed to gloss over the critical point made by the society that their operation to attract world class events to Weymouth frequently works as much as eight years ahead which was why they appealed for a ten-year lease.

A three-year restriction means they face an uphill if not impossible task to compete for such championships with rival venues which brings me to the single most important comment made in both debates.

No wonder councillors didn’t feel much like looking ten years ahead when vice-chairman Councillor Peter Chapman bravely refused to dodge talking about a dodgy future and warned that in ten years time there might not be a Weymouth and Portland authority because it could well have merged with another council.

He hammered that point home by highlighting another nasty reality that if it was hard now to convince Weymouth and Portland colleagues of the need for a ten-year lease then how much harder might it be a decade ahead with a merged council seeing local members trying to convince colleagues from as far away as Stuminster Newton that such a lease was justified.

His comments merely underline something I and many others have felt for a long time, namely that the Weymouth and Portland dog is increasingly being wagged by a West Dorset tail in Dorchester with the recent shared working between borough and district to jointly save money leading to that process being dominated by senior staff from West Dorset.

Only in local politics could a council in a town with 19,000 people seemingly hold the whip hand over another council looking after a town of more than 52,000 and an island with another 12,000.

It defies logic yet whoever said local or any form of politics was about logic.

Quiet please!

IN today’s modern world the chance for a bit of peace and quiet is becoming increasingly rare.

So I’m bound to applaud South West Trains for setting aside one carriage on the Weymouth-Waterloo train where the use of mobile phones is banned and those with music appliances are asked to have consideration for fellow passengers and keep noise levels right down.

Unfortunately this great idea is being torpedoed by selfish travellers who either can’t read signs in the carriage or – more likely – only care about themselves and can’t be bothered to toe the line.

I selected a “quiet” carriageway precisely because I wanted to be able to read my book without noisy distraction.

What I got over the next three hours was up to a dozen people regaling the entire carriage with their conquests from the night before, who they were going to meet when they got off the train and, most incredible of all, useless conversation about how they were actually on a train!

Worst of all, they were actually gabbling away while sat underneath clearly displayed signs banning the use of mobile phones in this carriage.

So I would advise SWT that an occasional brief announcement, perhaps when pulling away from a train station, ramming home the message about “quiet please in quiet carriages” would be very helpful to those of us longing for a bit of peace.

Stan - the council comeback kid!

AS comebacks go, it might not rank alongside Frank Sinatra or Muhammad Ali. But to make a return to the town council at the age of 79, having been voted off at the last election, is quite an achievement.

Stan Williams, who first won a seat on the old Borough Council in the late 1960s, campaigning for a one-way traffic system for Lyme, was triumphant in last week’s by-election, called to fill the vacancy left by a disallusioned Jill Newton.

Stan topped the poll with 321 votes in a rather dismal but not unexpected turn-out of 26 per cent.

So few people turned out because the majority have no real interest in local government,  and many have been put off offering their services by the crass behaviour of so many of our current elected members. They give an already much aligned institution a bad name.

Stan beat Woodroffe School teacher Seoras Strain (236 votes) into second place, followed by local author David Ruffle (144) and Jeff Scowen, who glories in the moniker of DJ Mad Jeff (88 votes).

The votes were counted when the polls closed at the Woodmead Halls and the result announced to a handful of interested people shortly before midnight. 

Four other councillors - deputy mayor Anita Williams, Daryl Turner, Lucy Campbell and Rikey Austin - turned up to see who would be joining them on the council benches, accompanied by Lucy’s mum and dad, who always show a great interest in their daughter’s work on the town council. 

I was there more out of duty than interest and two other keen council observers, former mayor Ken Dibben and Derek Hallett, were also present.

All the councillors joined Stan, Seoras and Jeff at the bar for a drink after the result was declared, which was nice to see. 

I was surprised that four candidates put themselves forward for a by-election and Stan’s three opponents all worked hard to get their message across to the electorate. “Mad Jeff” was even delivering election leaflets in the early hours of the morning on election day.

And top marks go to Seoras for having the nerve to knock on a few doors in town to introduce himself, which rarely happens in town council elections.

I believe it is quite possible that at least seven of the current 14 town councillors may not seek re-election at the next full contest in May 2015 and I hope that all three put themselves forward again.

So what can we expect with Stan back on the council? He never really went away after losing his seat, turning up at most meetings and having his say during the public forum session, sometimes to the obvious annoyance of some councillors.

After hearing that he was back on the council, one of my mates told me I must be rubbing my hands in glee as this newspaper would never want for another front page story.

He takes his seat at tonight’s full council meeting and it will be interesting to see where he sits. Will he return to the Aldermanic Bench, next to the mayor and traditionally reserved for the longest serving councillors, or will he find a place in the pit, an apt name for it these days?

I TOOK a bit of stick after last week’s column, especialy on Facebook, for alluding to my do-it-yourself efforts as part of the Event Of The Week section in this column. It wasn’t my intention to do so, although I admit it did read like that. It was the joy of getting away from what has seemed like months of painting ceilings and the like to attend a really enjoyable social occasion at the golf club that I was highlighting as my Event Of The Week. As a regular reader of this column told me, I really must get out more!

THERE’S much comment in the town over the council’s generous decision to give £150,000 to ensure that Lyme’s long-awaited skatepark is delivered.

I have been asked by the Mayor, Sally Holman, to point out that the council decision was to sanction UP to £150,000 for the project, and not necessarily £150,000.

Whichever way you look at it, however, it’s the biggest single donation to a community project in the council’s history and will ensure that the town’s skateboarding fraternity will get their facilities without further undue delay.

The council’s ability to offer such a large sum has been brought about by adopting a blue-sky approach to the reserves held for a rainy day (applauded by this column) and the fact that Lyme has enjoyed a bumper summer season which has produced more revenue than expected from its various undertakings.

The council has also earmarked £60,000 for the replacement of the church railings and committed significfant expenditure to the Monmouth Beach area.

One question I’ve been asked several times recently: “Does this mean there is now enough money in the kitty to complete the skatepark?”

I am told that this may not be the case.  At one time it was thought the skatepark would cost up to £150,000 but I hear it could be more - and that’s why the splendid Cheryl Reynolds is continuing her fundraising to ensure that the money will be there when needed.