THIS is the time of year when town councillors turn their thoughts to who will be our next mayor.
The usual procedure is that councillors will vote in a secret paper ballot for the mayor and deputy mayor in March, but those elected to office do not take their positions until May.
The role of council chairman and town mayor has been held for the past two years by Brian Larcombe MBE, the council member with the most experience in local government, having been chairman of a parish council in the Taunton area for 25 years, serving a population twice the size of Lyme but with a much smaller budget.
Usually the mayor gets a two-year term and is only offered a third year if no one else will accept the position. Very few have served for one year only, just three in my recollection (myself, Stuart Case and Ken Whetlor).
A cannot recall a more difficult time to shoulder the responsibilities of being First Citizen than at this present time.
Last year – with COVID-19 affecting every aspect of our lives – put huge pressure on Cllr Larcombe and town clerk John Wright.
Council meetings were suspended, later to be resumed by video conferencing – and staff had to work from home. Revenues fell away and the first lockdown put severe pressure on the council’s ability to maintain reserves.
Much of the work between town clerk and mayor had to be done by Zoom or telephone and I shudder to think how many hours the council executive and outdoor staff had to put in to ensure all COVID restrictions were implemented.
Overall, I think they did an excellent job, indeed one I would not have wanted to do. They probably won’t admit it but I believe it must have been little short of a nightmare.
As well as the additional workload, it has been quite a challenge keeping the rest of the council informed of what was happening. Not all of them were happy with the flow of information.
There are two big civic events which the mayor has to host – first, the actual mayor-making ceremony (when he or she is installed), and the annual civic night, held towards the end of the mayor’s year in office which gives the outgoing incumbent the chance to thank the town for its support.
The two events are usually the most memorable of a First Citizen’s year but Cllr Larcombe had to forgo both of these last year due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Despite the extra workload that the pandemic has created, a great deal of future planning has gone into how Lyme can emerge from lockdown to retain its position as one of the most popular resorts on the south coast.
So the big question is: who will be wearing those gold chains when Cllr Larcombe’s two-year term comes to a close at the end of April?
For the sake of continuity, as we hopefully come out of lockdown and return to some form of normality, I think it would be wise – and in the town’s long-term interest – for Cllr Larcombe to be given a third term.
His focus has very much been on the many financial challenges the council faces and he is the right man to complete his vision for Lyme’s future. And he should be accorded the courtesy of another mayor-making evening and hosting his civic night like all those who have gone before him.
It would also make sense to select a deputy who would be able to take over the role of mayor when Cllr Larcombe vacates the mayoral chair.
I understand Cllr Larcombe would be prepared to serve another year if a majority of his fellow councillors want him to.
It’s a dog’s life for the enforcers
I HAVE no intention of getting involved in the long-running and vitriolic dispute over dogs on the beach at Lyme Regis. I learnt that lesson a long time ago.
On my daily walks I have seen many more local dog owners on Monmouth Beach, which at this time of year has a stretch of sand for the dogs to run around.
But I do feel some sympathy for the town council’s enforcement officers who recently went on a refresher course to be able to deal with the new regulations that, at this time of the year, mean dogs on the front beach must be on a lead, and not on one of those 30 metre long ones.
I watched one of the officers deal with a few owners who had allowed their dogs off the lead this week and on each occasion he got a mouthful of abuse.
It would probably help if there was more visible signage, especially about dogs being on a lead at this time of year. Dogs are now banned on the front beach from May to September but they are permitted to use Monmouth and Back Beach all year round.
These are the things I miss most
- WHEN… walking along the seafront was for pleasure and not exercise
- WHEN… you could stand at the bar having a pint with friends
- WHEN… Saturday afternoons were spent watching football and not shopping in Tesco
- WHEN… My grandchildren would run into the Amusement Arcade shouting “come on granddad!”
- WHEN… I always had some coins in my pocket
- WHEN… a friend says “see you soon” rather than “keep safe”
- WHEN… you could buy jugs of Pimm’s at the Harbour and drink them outside until you ran out of money
- WHEN… people never had a go at you when you coughed in the Co-Op
- WHEN… my wife said “never again” when I roped her into doing the catering for yet another charity function I was organising
- WHEN… I don’t have to watch war films which I have seen on the tele dozens of times to fend off boredom
- WHEN… every BBC news programme is not so negative (that might be a long wait)
- WHEN… I stop creating spreadsheets to record every single aspect of my life WHEN… the humour rather than vitriol returns to Lyme’s local social media sites
- WHEN… people stop blaming my daughter, who edits LymeOnline, for every piece of bad news about COVID
- WHEN… we can eat out again and the condiments don’t come in those annoying little sachets which I can never open
- WHEN… we can start producing a proper newspaper again, full of news and sport, and not have to revert to inane content fillers – like this!