Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Good to keep some of our old traditions

BY the time most of you read this a new mayor will be installed in a colourful and sometimes confusing ceremony which goes back hundreds of years – mayor-making. 

It’s recognised as one of the principal dates in Lyme’s civic calendar and I hope that will always be the case.

I am not opposed to change - there’s been a great deal of that in recent times in the Guildhall - but I think it is good that some of our old traditions live on as they do in most historic towns, especially those with royal approval, up and down the country.

Councillor Owen Lovell and his wife Christine, having already served two terms as the town’s First Citizens, are being officially installed tonight (Wednesday) and I have no doubt they will be just as popular as they wore the chains in the early 1990s and over the Millennium period.

The coming year will be a challenging one for the new unelected council and Owen will need all his wide experience in local government to restore the town’s pride in its council.  I have no doubt that he will do so.

The council has to get itself up to a full complement of 14 members through co-option and that process will happen over the next few weeks. There’s talk of reducing the council numbers to 12 but I would not advocate that in this first year.  There is much to do.

The skatepark issue has already emerged as one possible area of conflict and a letter from Daryl Turner in this week’s View From throws some interesting light on the difficulties of finally delivering this project.  

But I have no doubt this will be resolved in due course and the young people of the town will get their skatepark after 40 years of debate and argument.

I haven’t attended a mayor-making ceremony for some years. My presence in recent times would have been hypocritical in the extreme in view of the ill-feeling which exists between the now infamous “Gang of Five” and this newspaper.

But Owen has kindly asked me to propose the toast to the town, which I am pleased to accept, and my daughter Francesca will also be speaking in reply to the toast to the press, which was abandoned last year to ensure the event went off without too much aggravation. 

Former journalist David Cozens MBE is also on the toast list. Three reporters speaking at one event? It might be overkill.

I cannot tell you what I’m planning to say because I don’t know. I never do until I stand up. 

I’m firmly in the school of the late Albert Lane, former town clerk, Alderman and Freeman of the Borough, who once told me: “If it’s not worth remembering, it’s certainly not worth saying.”

Another bank closure a blow to the elderly of Lyme

THE closure of the NatWest branch in Lyme Regis, whilst not entirely unexpected, has come as a shock to many in Lyme Regis, coming so close on the back of the demise of HSBC in the town.

We all know that banking is not what it was. When I first started work the local bank manager was one of the key movers and shakers in the town, a highly respected individual who played a prominent role in the community.

Do you know who your bank manager is today? I don’t. The thing that gets me about banks is that it seems the longer you are with them the poorer they treat you.  

In most businesses you look after your longest customers - but not in banking where the holy grail is new customers. Bankers are now salesmen.

Of course, the internet has made a huge impact on the number of people who actually walk into a bank these days. Like many others, I do all my banking online and use a cash point. But there is great suspicion in Lyme about the statement from NatWest that they Lyme branch only had 53 regular customers a week.

NatWest customers are told they will still be able to use facilities at the post office but there’s been a question mark hanging over the post office in Broad Street for some time, so how long will that last?

Internet banking is not an option for many elderly people who still value the personal service that the bank offers.

I always found the staff at NatWest extremely polite and co-operative and they will be missed by the elderly who relied on their advice and assistance.

It wasn’t so long ago that Lyme Regis Town Council shifted their allegiance from Lloyds Bank to NatWest, and it was where the council’s valuable trinkets - the maces and mayor’s chain, worth a considerable sum - were kept in the bank vaults.

Will the council now have to go to Axminster or Bridport every time there’s a civic event - or will they return to Lloyds? 

WHILST FIFA was proving that football at the top is corrupt to the core (as if we didn’t know), Lyme Regis Football Club was celebrating another ground-breaking season, proving that football is only “a beautiful” game at grass roots level.

FIFA generates millions through the World Cup but, disgracefully, very little of it trickles down to amateur football.

Meanwhile, up at the golf club, Lyme Regis FC, one of the town’s oldest organisations, celebrated promotion in its first season in senior football.

It was rowdy as always but inspiring as well,  encapsulated by making former captain Martin Rowe , one of local sports’ most endearing characters, a life member. Much deserved.

As we say, once a Seasider always a Seasider!

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