We have a new-look council… so let’s give them a chance

LYME Regis people called for change when they went to the polls last week – and change they got with all six new nominations winning a seat. Or did they?

The dynamic of the council has undoubtedly changed with five women now sitting on the authority and two youngsters also elected – and that must be viewed as a positive result.

The big shock, of course, was that deputy mayor Stephen Miller lost his seat, as did Sean Larcombe, surprisingly.

As well as being deputy mayor, Mr Miller was also chairman of the council’s most influential committee, Strategy and Finance, and had to deal with the thorny negotiations with East Devon District Council over the Sidmouth Road park and ride debacle. That did not end well for either party.

The new council has already met informally and I understand it did not go quite as well as town clerk John Wright intended. More of that later…

The first public meeting of the council will be on Wednesday when a new mayor will be elected. With the current mayor Michaela Ellis having served for the usual two-year term, it was expected that Mr Miller was the favourite to succeed her as our new First Citizen.

With Mr Miller loosing his seat, that all changes and we could well see Councillor Ellis continuing to wear the mayoral chains for another year or two.

If Councillor Ellis does get elected again, one obvious choice for deputy mayor would be Councillor Cheryl Reynolds, who missed out topping the poll by one vote to Councillor Graham Turner.

Councillor Reynolds was also defeated in the four-horse race for Lyme and Charmouth’s first representative on the new Dorset unitary council by brother Daryl Turner, but managed to poll well over 500 votes, a considerable achievement for an independent candidate with no party machinery behind her.

When the result of the town election was announced, Councillor Reynolds went onto Facebook immediately to say she thought she would now have to offer herself as mayor following Mr Miller’s defeat.

After her defeat in the Dorset Council election, Councillor Reynolds’ Facebook supporters urged her to stand for mayor and expressed the forlorn hope that the people of the town could vote her into office.

It’s a nice thought that the electorate could choose our mayor, as happens in some metropolitan areas, but I’m sorry to be a Jobe’s Comforter here, but that is just not possible in law.

One councillor who has also publicly revealed that he wants to be mayor is Jeff Scowen, the council’s ‘enfant terrible’ who is likely to receive support from some of the new faces.

If it’s a two-way battle between Michaela Ellis and Jeff Scowen, the vote could be evenly split, meaning that Michaela would have the casting vote and would be able to choose herself. It has happened before.

So back to this week’s informal gathering of the new council. If what I hear is correct, I understand there was bickering between some of the existing councillors, hardly the place to express disagreements before the new councillors, especially the youngsters.

The people of Lyme wanted a new council and now they have got one. We should give them a chance to prove themselves and urge those who are used to witnessing the tantrums of recent times in the Guildhall to show an example and act in a respectful manner to their colleagues.

To our two new young councillors, Leon Howe and Kelsey Ellis, I applaud your guts in standing. A voice for the young is long overdue in the council chamber and you are now that voice.

Don’t get drawn into one faction or the other or be influenced by the clash of personalities which has caused so much angst in recent times.

More leaks than a Tory cabinet!

IF the events of recent days are anything to go by, it would seem that leaks are very much an accepted part of politics today. Barely a day goes by when a Cabinet member is not accused of spilling the beans, especially when it comes to Brexit matters.

Gavin ‘Private Pike’ Williamson, the former Defence Secretary, is fighting for his political career after the alleged leaking of secret information related to national security.

Here in sleepy Lyme Regis ‘leaks’ from the council chamber have been almost a way of life for local journalists for many years. It’s the same in most small towns.

I think it’s fair to say that this past council has been a bit more leaky that ones before, but none of them in recent times have been exactly water tight. The main reason for this has been the move to more working groups to which the press and public have no access.

Things got very uppity last week when a number of councillors complained that the first they knew that the £15,000 compensation fee to be paid to the council for disturbance caused by the production company of the ‘Ammonite’ film, was when they read it in this newspaper, after they had been told the amount was to be kept secret as it was a condition of the negotiations.

I was actually told three weeks ago that the fee was £15,000 and this was confirmed by a reliable source close to the Mary Anning Rocks group, trying to raise £175,000 for the statue.

Ultimately, councillors were informed in an email that the fee was £15,000 after the story had appeared on our website.

The council is yet to confirm publicly the amount and will have to decide what will happen to the money.

I understand that the film company would like the money to go to the Mary Anning statue, but that’s a decision the council will have to make. It will not go into council funds.

Sixty odd years after they first went to St Michael’s Junior School (from the left): the former misses Joan Fox, Corinne Hopper, Sue Rice, Pat Roberts, Sandra Cable, Pam Warmsley, Lyn Clarke and Sue Dean

School chums meet up after 60 years

SCHOOL reunions are fairly common place these days as we realise, as the years roll past and life gets more complicated, that our happiest days really were those spent at school.

I’m not sure I subscribe to that view. Although I enjoyed my infant and junior school days, I didn’t really enjoy the six years I spent at Lyme Grammar and then the Woodroffe. I was painfully shy, struggled with exams and only really enjoyed playing football.

There is no doubt, however, that the bevy of beauties pictured above look back on their early days of schooling at St Michael’s with great affection.

They are now all of a certain age (which I have no intention of revealing) and this week they got together for a sumptuous English tea at the Royal Lion where they were able to meet up with Joan Fox (now Haughton) who was returning to Lyme after several years for a holiday and who would dearly love to come back to live some day.

There to greet her were the former Misses Corinne Hopper, Sue Rice, Pat Roberts, Sandra Cable, Pam Warmsley, Lyne Clarke and Sue Dean. I instantly recognised some of them as we lived fairly close to each other.

They first met up at the Junior School in 1954/55 so it’s been more than 60 years since they first got together (oops, that’s given away their ages!).

It was great meeting up with them again and seeing some of the old photos of their school days at St Michael’s with so many familiar faces.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 813 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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