Thursday, 4 September 2014
Will digital do for the TIC?
LYME Regis has always been rightly proud of its award-winning Tourist Information Centre, situated on the ground floor of Guildhall Cottage where the town council offices are situated.
True, the location is not ideal, tucked away at the side of the Guildhall, but the TIC staff have done a terrific job over the years promoting Lyme at every opportunity and have been recognised far beyond this parish for the efficiency of their service.
But along with similar operations in West Dorset, it would seem the future of our TIC may be in some doubt.
Facing reduced funding from central government, West Dorset District Council is reviewing the cost effectiveness of all its services and looking at alternative ways to deliver tourist information with a view to savings of £300,000.
In a statement to this newspaper, council leader Robert Gould emphasises that the council has to become less reliant on Whitehall hand-outs and is facing a reduction of £9.2 million pounds a year by the year 2020.
The TIC used to be run by the town council until the function was taken over by WDDC several years ago. It was a move that improved and extended the service provided for visitors but the responsibility for running the TIC could return to the town council again as this is one of the options being considered.
Across the border in East Devon, the district council stopped running their TICs many years ago with the responsibility passing to town councils and voluntary groups. In Axminster, for example, the TIC is run by a group of volunteers who fundraise to keep the service going.
Weymouth Borough Council scrapped their dedicated TICs with tourism information leaflets being distributed from various business outlets throughout the town.
Robert Gould makes the point that more people want to access tourist information online rather than physically calling at a manned centre.
Last year the council website - visit-dorset.com - attracted 1.7 million visitors and a new mobile version for smart phones and tablets has recently been launched.
Lyme will be reluctant to let go of its valued TIC but the digital age may well do for it in the end.
EVENT OF THE WEEK
THE second Folk Festival in Lyme Regis was another resounding success, attracting many hundreds of people to the town.
Festival publicist Julie Sheppard told this newspaper they were aiming for a “folk carnival by the sea” and she thought they had “nailed it”. I don’t think there was any doubt about that.
We took a stroll along the seafront with visitors on both Saturday and Sunday and the Marine Parade was really buzzing. They asked: “Is Lyme always like this?” to which we had to reply “Well yes, it mostly is.”
They could not believe that such a small resort could host such an obviously successful and professional event. How many times have we heard that before?
Jerry Hayes and Geoff Hughes, the two folk afficianados who are the driving force behind the festival, have succeeded in establishing Lyme Folk Weekend as a must on the summer calendar and being held so late in the summer it gives the town a welcome economic boost as the season draws to a close.
The addition of the food and drink outlets on the seafront added greatly to the overall atmosphere and the festival camp site looked much busier than last year.
It was another very ambitious programme but they managed to retain the friendliness which was such a hallmark of their first event.
And whilst the Lyme weekend may have a bit of a way to go to match the world renowned Sidmouth Folk Festival, there is no doubt that it has already established itself as a must weekend for folk enthusiasts.
Stand by this weekend for two more punching above our weight events - Food Rocks and Guitars On The Beach.
LYME Regis will be going to the polls in nine months in what many consider to be one of the most important elections for many years.
There is precious little interest in local government and no wonder considering the shenanigans that have gone on in the Lyme Regis council chamber these past couple of years, without doubt the most disturbing in the town council’s history.
When this new council was elected in 2011 there was talk of “taking local government to the people” by holding meetings at various locations around the town. It didn’t happen.
Talk also of making council business more transparent but that didn’t happen either with the council going into commitee (secret session) at the drop of a hat and many decisions obviously being decided before councillors got to the chamber.
Real debate in our council chamber is a disappearing art with more decision making being devolved to the officers.
No one is getting excited yet about the outcome of the next election with polling day still so far away.
One thing is for sure, there is likely to be a big change in the make up of the council. So far, three existing councillors have told me they don’t intend to stand and there could be several more who will be putting away their code of conduct for a last time.
But who will replace them?