After explosive walk-out, it’s time for new council to move on

WITH five new councillors and the prospect of a new mayor being elected, last week’s meeting of Lyme Regis Town Council was always going to be – shall we say – interesting. And whilst rumours during the day circulating in town were predicting a few fireworks, no one expected it to be quite so explosive.

The popular view was that the contest for mayor would be a two-way fight (probably not the best word to use here!) between the outgoing mayor, Michaela Ellis, and Councillor Jeff Scowen, who had made it quite clear on social media over a number of weeks that he was going for the top job – and expected to win it.

As president I was on front-of-house duties at Lyme Regis Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Anything Goes’ at the Woodmead Halls but popped down to the Guildhall to listen to the proceedings.

Considering how much activity there had been on Facebook in the run-up to the meeting, my first impression was how disappointing to see just seven people in the public gallery. It made me think, does anyone really care about who is mayor and who runs the town?

As mayor-election day drew ever closer there was talk among those who do care that a third candidate had emerged. That had to be Brian Larcombe whose name had been bandied about for some time but, with local government duties elsewhere, did not seem to be courting support to become his home town’s First Citizen.

And so it proved that arguably one of the town’s most experienced councillors by a country mile, Councillor Larcombe allowed his name to go into the hat.

Normally, mayor’s serve a two-year term and only continue in office if there is no one interested in taking over, but Councillor Ellis said she had agreed to allow her name to go forward because a number of people in the town had encouraged her to do so. Immediately, new councillor Belinda Bawden stepped forward to point out that standing orders confirmed that the position should go to a new candidate willing to serve.

But not all standing orders are binding and the council voted to suspend them to allow Councillor Ellis’ name to go forward for what could have been her fifth year as mayor, having previously served for a two-year term from 2009-11.

In the end, Councillor Ellis was defeated by eight votes to six in favour of Councillor Larcombe taking the mayoral chairs.

Councillor Scowen was then nominated for deputy mayor against Cheryl Reynolds and he won the support by the same margin. At this point, Mrs Reynolds read a statement saying she could not work with Councillors Larcombe or Scowen, resigned and promptly left the chamber to a few gasps, saying it was a “terrible day” for the town.

Whatever the new councillors thought of this, heaven knows, but it was yet another uncomfortable day for Lyme Regis Town Council.

Full marks to Councillor Ellis who, clearly disappointed, took it on the chin and brought some decorum back to proceedings with a call for the council to draw a line under what had happened and come together to do their best for the people of Lyme Regis. There were shouts of approval from the audience.

It was heartening to see two youngsters sat in the council seats – 19-year-old Kelsey Ellis, daughter of the outgoing mayor, and 20-year old Leon Howe, son of former town councillor Rikey Austin. I do hope that both of them were not put off by the earlier drama and that the more senior councillors give them every help to establish a younger presence in the council chamber.

Perhaps it would a positive move if they were given a specific task, working together, to drive through the council, possibly developing the recently formed youth council at the Woodroffe School.

The new mayor’s first challenge will be to unite the council, to eliminate past quarrels and to raise the morale of the staff who must have been affected by the shenanigans of previous months.

Councillor Larcombe, in an exclusive article for LymeOnline, outlines his views on the challenges above and has made it clear that there has to be more balance between Lyme’s role as a hugely popular resort and the needs of those who live in the town, stressing that there is a limit to the number of people the town can cater for. That’s quite a statement and one that will be welcomed by an increasing number who feel past council’s have courted the tourist pound too enthusiastically, it being the lifeblood of the town.

He has urged the townsfolk to give the new council the chance to settle in and to judge them on results. So let’s just do that.

  • IN last week’s column I inferred that former councillor Cheryl Reynolds, after hearing the result of the town council election at the count, posted on Facebook that she would put her name forward for the position of mayor. This information was given to me by another councillor shortly after the result was announced and there were a number of comments on Facebook urging Mrs Reynolds to stand. Mrs Reynolds has asked me to point out that she made no such public statement and at no time had she considered putting herself forward for being mayor. Subsequently, Mrs Reynolds was nominated for the position of deputy mayor but was defeated eight votes to six by Councillor Jeff Scowen.

Do you really know what the British Legion does?

Branch chairman Ian Marshall and stalwart committee member Anya Driver pictured at the Legion’s national conference in Bournemouth

REGULAR readers of this column and others I have written about Lyme over the years will know that I have huge respect for the work of the Royal British Legion.

I got involved in the Legion many years ago when I was asked to compere the local branch’s Festival of Remembrance, an event we revived last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. With a packed Woodmead Halls, it was a very emotional occasion.

When the late Cecil Quick was forced to relinquish the position of branch president through ill health after 50 years of service, I was honoured to be appointed in his place, especially as I do not come from a military family. I am now in my third year as president and I have learned a great deal about the fantastic work the Legion does.

We all know that the Legion organises the annual Poppy Appeal, but have you ever wondered where all that cash goes and, more importantly, what is it spent on? A man who knows more about this than me is the current branch chairman, Ian Marshall, a former Major in the British Army who has done much in recent times to increase the public awareness of the Legion in Lyme and is committed to the cause.

After returning from representing the Lyme branch at the Legion’s annual conference in Bournemouth, I asked Ian to sum up the work of the organisation that does so much for those brave men and women, past and present, that make this world a far safer place.

These are Ian’s words: “I think we all tend to forget that our brave service veterans and their dependents need our help 365 days a year and not just in the weeks leading up to Armistice Day on November 11 each year.

“The Royal British Legion works in association with many other service charities but in particular we are able to assist with care and independent living – from providing care homes for older veterans, to support for carers, to helping the Armed Forces community to live safely at home, we’re here to help. We help with physical and mental wellbeing, from expert recovery and rehabilitation, to much-needed breaks away, we’re here to ensure the Armed Forces community can access the help they need.

“What about financial and employment support? We’re here to help ease the burden of financial pressures and transition into civilian life for the Armed Forces community.

“Local community connections – whether you’d like to talk to us in person, on the phone, or even chat online, we’re here to make sure everyone can access the support they need.

“Expert guidance – we offer robust support services in several areas but sometimes what’s needed is a bit of advice or recommendation to a more specialised service.

“More locally we offer home and hospital visiting, telephone buddying and provide on the spot support to our case workers if they need help. This all sounds great in principal but how do we assist in the Lyme Regis and its environs?

“We are developing our support and outreach locally by holding a monthly coffee drop in session in the Driftwood Rooms of the Baptist Hall in Lyme Regis commencing on Monday, June 3 from 10am to 12noon. These meetings will be held thereafter on the first Monday of the month.

“Please put the dates in your diary and pop in for a chat where we can explain all this is more detail and signpost you towards the most effective assistance route. Your local legion Poppy Team very much look forward to meeting you and naturally we are most indebted to all our gallant poppy collectors who all help this great charity work.”

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