THE biggest challenge faced by Lyme Regis Town Council continues to be changes to the local government structure, according to its new corporate plan.
Members of the council approved the corporate plan for 2018-2023 last week. The document reviews the council’s performance against its objectives and details issues the council intends to address in the future.
The plan said the biggest challenge faced by the town council in 2019 will be the same as that in 2018 – changes to local government and the introduction of the new unitary authority, Dorset Council, which comes into force on April 1 replacing the existing county and district councils.
The plan stated: “These changes, along with the reduction in government funding to Dorset Council and restrictions on council tax increases, create a dilemma for local councils like Lyme Regis Town Council, i.e. are they prepared to take on services that Dorset Council can no longer afford and, if so, how can these services be funded?”
The town council spent several months in discussion with the outgoing West Dorset District Council last year regarding the transfer of assets and services, including public toilets and the tourist information centre, but their plan was rejected by the new Dorset Council’s shadow executive.
In her forward of the corporate plan, the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, describes the rejection of the transfer of assets as the most notable council matter that “did not go to plan” in 2018.
However, she also lists a number of achievements, including the refurbishment of the Marine Parade toilets and town’s war memorial, grant to local organisations, employment of additional staff members, strengthened governance and financial arrangements, holding the council tax precept at its current level for the eighth year and increasing the council’s reserves to £1.4million.
Despite reports in November 2018 that the town council was expected to be £339,000 over budget by the end of the financial year, the plan notes the authority’s strong financial position.
It explains that Lyme Regis Town Council is different from many other councils in the country, because it makes 90 per cent of its income from assets it owns, rather than relying on council tax.
Looking to the future, the plan outlines “exciting” projects planned for the next year, including a major lighting scheme in Langmoor and Lister Gardens and the resurfacing of the flat roof area above SWIM, the Antiques & Craft Centre and Amusement Arcade on Marine Parade.
There are also plans to renovate the play area at Henry’s Way, completely refurbish the town council’s office at Guidhall Cottage and members will be considering the results of a major traffic and transport study.