Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The challenge facing this new council

WHEN the news came through mid-morning that only 10 candidates had put their names forward for election on Lyme Regis Town Council, no one could really believe it.

There was a cluster of existing and ex-councillors at the Cancer Research UK Big Breakfast checking WDDC’s website on mobile phones expecting a contest with, perhaps, as many as 18 nominations. 

No one expected that the list would fall four short of the requisite number - 14.  So in a way, those councillors who had refused to say whether they were standing or not had the last laugh.

There were rumours that a couple of the “Gang of Five” would be standing down but I don’t think many thought that all five would chuck it in. 

Later that day, at the annual parish meeting, Mark Gage announced that he had made up his mind not to seek re-election 18 months ago because of the battering he was getting from this newspaper. He went on to assassinate my character, accusing us of being “racist” against incomers and running the council, a ridiculous accusation. 

I’m not going to bother to defend my reputation. There were 40 present at the parish meeting and this column is read by 4,000 people. Unfair advantage. I will leave my service to this town for others to judge.

The criticism has also been aimed at us that the lack of candidates has been caused by the robust coverage of the council by the View From and that potential councillors did not want  to expose themselves to such a level of examination.

I think there is something in that but on the other side of the coin I am aware of a number of people who wanted to put up but decided not to do so because they did not wish to work with those councillors.

Had those who did not seek re-election been honest about their intentions, I am sure there would have been a contest.

There is one indisputable fact here that prompted our stance - the senior members of this current council have presided over the two worst years in the history of the authority and its predecessor, Lyme Regis Borough Council, with a litany of errors, falling out and reprimands from the town clerk about their behaviour. Lyme Regis deserved better.

But the new-look council will undoubtedly face a tough few months.  Whilst there is talk of reducing the number of councillors from 14 to 12, I understand they will be able to co-opt four new members after May 7th.

The first - and possibly the most difficult  task for the new council, and certainly the most important - will be to rebuild the reputation of Lyme Regis Town Council.

They will go some way to achieving this is they treat each other and those who have gone before with respect. There will be arguments in the council chamber. Councillors will fall out. That is the nature of the job, but such disagreement does not have to descend into personal insults and immature behaviour.

I think the town also expects its local councillors to support the civic traditions of this historic town and this has ben greatly lacking in recent years.

My hope is that the 10 will soon become 14, or at least 12, and they make a determined effort to work together to restore pride in Lyme Regis. 

Making omelettes is clearly not my forte...

THANK you to all those who supported our Cancer Research UK Big Breakfast at the Baptist Church Hall on Friday, realising a record £1,250.

This was our first event of 2015 and we are hoping to raise another £10,000 this year to take us over the £60,000 mark since we formed our fundraising branch in 2008.

The numbers attending were undoubtedly boosted by the extremely generous gesture by Mark Hix who gave a £150 voucher to dine out at his Oyster and Fish House.  We gave a free draw ticket to win this excellent prize to everyone who attended - the lucky winner being Julia Gay, from the Marine Theatre.

Despite his hectic schedule running some of London’s top restaurants as well as his Lyme outlet, Mark also called in to accept my challenge to see who could make a three-egg omelette in the fastest time, aka the “Saturday Kitchen” programme.

I have to say, rather sheepishly, that it was a bit of a disaster from my point of view.  Mark certainly took it seriously, bringing his own pan and wild garlic filling and completed his omelette in just over two minutes before finishing off my own effort, which was hopelessly undercooked by the time he poured his onto the plate.

It was just a bit of fun but emphasised the old adage: “Stick to what you do best” - and clearly cheffing is not what I do best!

We served 125 breakfasts on Friday morning as well as 25 takeaways with the ladies on our Cancer Research UK committee doing a brilliant job in the kitchen.

We are currently putting together a programme of events for the rest of the year so keep an eye out for our next one.

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