Councillors discuss future of public services with MP Sir Oliver Letwin

West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin with town councillors Gillian Stammers, Michaela Ellis, Jeff Scowen, David Ruffle, Brian Larcombe MBE, David Sarson and Stan Williams

FUNDING for emergency services, traffic, planning and the new unitary authority were top of the agenda when town councillors met with the local MP.

West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin came to Lyme Regis to meet with the new council as part of the members’ induction programme. Top of the agenda was the impact the new Dorset Council would have on the town council and how public services were likely to be delivered in future.

Speaking to councillors, Sir Oliver said: “I think the new unitary is going to want, if it can, to devolve certain powers and responsibilities to town and parish councils.

“There is a commercial negotiation between you and them, which is effectively between the tax payers of Lyme Regis and the tax payers of Dorset and I’m sure that will be quite a complicated thing.

“There will be some pressure on Dorset Council to deliver things by leaving them to town and parish councils, or else to close those. There will be some things they would think the tax payers of Dorset as a whole shouldn’t be sustaining.”

Sir Oliver said this wouldn’t happen overnight, as the unitary authority had much higher priorities to address first, including housing, social care and children’s services.

He said Dorset Council would also be considering which services could be better managed locally.

“Where there’s a service or activity that costs X amount, they don’t expect to save a single penny but they think it will be better managed locally,” he said.

“I suspect there will be issues of capacity. There are things Lyme Regis Town Council can very well manage without disrupting operation that couldn’t be managed at a smaller parish council.

“It’s quite important to sort out what you do feel comfortable you can do well and not end up accepting responsibility and find you are a completely different organisation to before.”

Councillors also asked the MP if more funding would come from central government for the police and ambulance service. Sir Oliver said he anticipated more funding for the ambulance service, which he admitted was ‘too thinly stretched’, but he doubted there would be any notable increase in police funding.

He said: “There will be more money in the ambulance service and that should have a significant effect on the South Western Ambulance Service on the whole over the next two years.”

However, he acknowledged that as more calls came from heavily populated areas, ambulances had to travel from those areas to less populated places, resulting in longer waiting times.

The MP said he didn’t believe the pressure on national police resources were specifically related to the problems in Lyme Regis.

He said: “The Chief Constable has to put the resources where the crime needs to be prevented. The complaints we have been getting from people say there are not enough police in Lyme Regis, but it’s not a crime-ridden environment.

“It’s getting some anti-social behaviour but even if you doubled police resources you would still get that problem.

“I think there’s a deal to be struck where when there is an issue of low-level disturbance, which I think is what we’re mainly talking about, the town council works with the police and co-operates in funding and organising more PCSO activity.

“I doubt you actually need a large-scale police force. What you need is more police presence, which isn’t going to do anything about serious crime but makes people feel the police are being attentive.”

Councillors also discussed planning matters with Sir Oliver and asked how the town council could have a greater say on developments within Lyme Regis.

“If you want to have a decisive impact on planning you need a neighbourhood plan,” said Sir Oliver.

“That then gives you some serious control over what happens in Lyme Regis.”

However, he said formulating a neighbourhood plan would be a ‘serious undertaking’ and he acknowledged the town’s ‘geographical complexities’, including land stability, sharing a border with another county, the limited availability of land and the high number of listed buildings, would present a challenge.

Members also spoke to the MP about the proposed Dorset National Park, which the town council has yet to adopt a formal position on. Sir Oliver said: “I’m not personally persuaded it’s a good idea.”

The councillors also took the opportunity to enlist his help in getting traffic signs on the A35, which must be approved by Highways England.

The town council requested signs to help with traffic flow in the town over a year ago but is still waiting for approval, which Sir Oliver said he would “take up with Highways England”.

The new Mayor and Mayoress of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE and his wife Wendy

Hopes for unity and mutual respect at mayor making

UNITY, friendship and respect were the main themes of mayor-making this week. Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE was formally installed as the town’s first citizen at the traditional ceremony in the Guildhall.

Former mayor, Cllr Michaela Ellis passed the chains of office to Cllr Larcombe, who will be supported by his wife Wendy as mayoress, Cllr Jeff Scowen as deputy mayor, and Cllr Belinda Bawden as deputy mayoress.

Those who made speeches shared their hopes for a united council, a closer link between the council and community, and mutual respect.

There was also praise for the town’s many organisations and volunteers and recognition of the beauty of Lyme Regis.

Special mention was given to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the American GIs who were based in Lyme Regis awaiting the start of the operation.

In closing the evening, the mayor Cllr Brian Larcombe said: “Lyme has to respect the past but it has to recognise the future. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate Lyme Regis.”

Planning application for cash point rejected

DORSET Council has thrown out plans for a cash machine in Lyme Regis.

The town council was disappointed to learn last week the planning application for an ATM at the top of Bell Cliff had been rejected.

We have been trying hard since June 2017 to address the lack of ATMs in the town following the closure of all the banks and have worked with CashZone to install a machine.

The project has moved slowly as a power supply and phone line had to be installed and CashZone changed the design of its machine.

A planning application was finally submitted in March this year, with the hope of having an ATM in place by the summer.

Dorset Council rejected the application due to the proposed site being in front of a listed building.

We’re now exploring with CashZone whether a different location is possible.

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