Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The code that says you must behave!

TONIGHT town councillors in Lyme Regis will vote on a new code of conduct. Not before time.

Clearly a huge amount of work has gone in from the town clerk’s office to make sure every possible angle has been covered.

The point is, however, will they adhere to it?

The year 2013 will go down as one to forget for Lyme Regis Town Council.  A year in which the Mayor Sally Holman and town clerk John Wright had to publicly reprimand councillors for their unacceptable behaviour in the council chamber. 

I cannot remember that ever happening before.

In fact, if Lyme Regis Town Council had been a school it would have been put into special measures. 

Some of the behaviour - particulary the lack of respect for those with differing  opinions - was shameful.

Democracy is about opinions and there have always been disagreements and grudges in the Lyme council chamber. But there has never been such a lack of respect between the warring factions.

But that is behind us. After tonight’s meeting, the councillors will know exactly where they stand - what they can do and what they can’t.

Now if there is a case to answer when a councillor steps out of line, and West Dorset District Council decides a breach has occurred, the matter will be referred back to the town council for action. The council will then be able to impose sanctions limited to censure, an apology, training and a reprimand.

Further voluntary sanctions can be imposed which includes suspending a member who is deemed to be in breach of the code for up to six months.

By voluntary I assume the offending councillor will have to agree to the suspension.
In an ideal world, of course, none of this will ne necessary because all councillors will engage in robust debate but accept the majority decision of members and move on. 

This current council has 14 months to put their “annus horribilis” behind them and pledge to act in the manner in which the electorate expects and deserves.

There have been a few spats between councillors and council staff this past year. Again, nothing new but in the past these have always been handled in house without becoming  a public spectacle. A new protocol will be put in place tonight to eliminate a repeat of such scenes.

There is little doubt that the new codes will be adopted by the council and they can then go about their business of running Lyme Regis - hopefully in a new spirit of co-operation.

Or am I being naive?

It was James Cagney who entertained the GIs

LAST week I wrote about the excellent programme of events, led by the town council and fronted by Royal British Legion stalwart David Manners to commemorate the 70th anniversary ofthe D-Day landings.

I referred to the relationship that was established between the people of Lyme Regis and the US 16th Infantry Regiment based in the town in the run-up to the invasion, many of whom lost their lives. 

I also mentioned the big names appearing at the Marine Theatre these days, including comedians Jo Brand and Alan Carr, and commented that they would be following in the fotsteps of some big names, making particular reference to Hollywood star Mickey Rooney entertaining the GIs at the Marine Theatre when it was the Drill Hall. 

But of course it wasn’t Micky  Rooney - it was James Cagney - and a number of you wasted no time in letting me know. My apologies for such an elementary error.

Among the first to do so was local historian Ken Gollop whose legion of fans will soon be queuing up at the Woodmead Halls for another installment of his wonderful “Under Shady Tree” talks on Sunday, March 2nd when he will be throwing the spotlight on the Cobb Gate area.

I THINK I wrote my first story on the possibility of Lyme Regis getting a skatepark in the early 1970s after local sports enthusaist Royston Davies suggested to the old Borough Council that the Anning Road playing field would make an ideal location.

Here we are 40 years later and at last tenders are being sought for the construction of a skatepark in the Charmouth Road car park. 

The project is going ahead after countless sites were rejected and much debate and argument in the council chamber. It is being made possible by the generosity of Lyme Regis Town Council who have committed £150,000 towards the cost and the energetic Cheryl Reynolds, who has fronted a fundraising campaign which has brought in £11,000 in the last year. There’s still the planning process to go through but a skatepark in Lyme Regis in now virtually a certainty. Hurrah!

New skateparks are also being built in neighbouring towns. Axminster has launched an appeal to raise £160,000 to replace the existing facility at Cloakham Lawn and a £90,000 project is underway in Honiton.

Axminster is not expecting to take 40 years to deliver their skatepark. With support from East Devon District Council and the appropriate grant making bodies, they say it will be open in 18 months with approval but no financial input from Axminster Town Council.

NEXT week this column will be handed over to Chris Boothroyd, who last year wrote two brilliantly pieces for the View from Lyme Regis. Once a month Chris will be offering “Another View” and has been given a free reign over content.

You will not be disappointed.

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