THE Deputy Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Jeff Scowen, has shocked his colleagues and residents by announcing that he will resign at the end of the year.
Announcing the news on social media, he wrote: “After seven wonderful years in Lyme I will soon be leaving for a new life in North Wales. I am moving to be nearer my son and two young grandchildren.
“I will be resigning from the council on December 31 and I wish you all good luck and God bless.”
The news came as a surprise to many after Councillor Scowen expressed delight at being elected deputy mayor earlier this year, and subsequently the chairman of the Tourism, Community & Publicity Committee, which he said had been an ambition of his since joining the council.
Councillor Scowen first won a seat on Lyme Regis Town Council in 2016, beating former mayor Ken Dibben in a by-election. He was returned to the council with 549 votes in the May election this year.
A reggae DJ and artist, Councillor Scowen quickly became known as one of the most colourful characters the council had ever seen. He is a keen social media user, regularly posting quirky videos to help promote the town, and even setting up his own Facebook page ‘Pride of Lyme’.
However, his comments on social media have often split opinion and caused heated debates.
In one of the most controversial moments during his council career, Jeff passionately opposed the removal of the Marine Theatre’s advertising rotunda at the entrance of Marine Parade. He even threatened to chain himself to the structure but his argument was eventually lost.
Councillor Scowen was also embroiled in events leading to the dramatic resignation of former councillor Cheryl Reynolds earlier this year. Mrs Reynolds was accused of bullying Councillor Scowen in a formal complaint made to West Dorset District Council’s monitoring officer regarding this and several other issues.
She was found in breach of the council’s code of conduct on two counts, but the claim regarding bullying was not upheld.
Mrs Reynolds then resigned from the council when Councillor Scowen was elected deputy mayor, saying she could no longer work with him or the new mayor, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE.
In more recent times, Councillor Scowen has become known for his support of the arts, in particular the Marine Theatre, and environmental issues in the town, fighting for Roundup week killer to be banned and backing the council’s decision to declare a climate emergency.
He is passionate about promoting Lyme Regis and moving with modern times, recently winning support to scrap the town’s traditional printed holiday guide for a new map, interactive website and app, which he described as “ground breaking”.
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, has paid tribute to Councillor Scowen’s commitment and support.
He said: “Jeff’s leaving comes as a disappointment to us and his contribution to Lyme Regis Town Council’s business will be missed.
“He has brought an added width and fresh ideas to the council’s debate and thinking on projects and issues, and is leaving his mark on the things we’ve achieved.
“I personally wish to thank him for the support he’s given me and while I fully understand his reasons for leaving Lyme, I’d rather he’d stayed to continue the kind of commitment and input he brings. “I wish him well in whatever he does and life brings his way.”
Councillor Belinda Bawden, who has worked closely with Councillor Scowen as the deputy mayor’s consort, commented: “We’ll miss your passion, humour, honesty and vision. Thank you for all the energy and creative drive you’ve put into Lyme Regis and to the town council.
“You’ve inspired others to get involved and shown your love for Lyme and for public service with commitment and integrity, not to mention a dash of colour and controversy!”
A new deputy mayor and chairman of the Tourism, Community & Publicity Committee will be elected from within the council following Councillor Scowen’s resignation. His seat is expected to be filled by a by-election in the New Year.