Wednesday, 20 November 2013

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. 

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