‘Significant improvement’ in council’s attitude since May elections

LYME Regis Town Council has seen a “marked reduction in personal conflict” and a “significant improvement” in attitude since May 2019, according to town clerk John Wright.

Giving his annual statement of internal control and risk assessment at last week’s meeting, Mr Wright reported that, following a “significant deterioration” from late 2016 to May 2019 caused by personal conflicts, the attitude of the council had improved since it started its new term following the local elections.

The election saw six new members join the town council in May, and another won a seat in a by-election in August.

Another by-election is now expected to be held in the New Year, following the announcement that deputy mayor Jeff Scowen will be standing down, which could leave the 14-strong council with a majority of new faces.

The town clerk’s report said that the reputation of the council, which in the past had been “damaged by member disagreement”, had also improved, as had relationships between councillors and officers.

He said that the integrity of the council was “generally good” and previous concerns about breaches in confidentiality had reduced significantly.

Mr Wright’s report said the competence of council employees was high, supported by their varied qualifications and experience, and that councillors had also undertaken a significant amount of training since May 2019, putting the council in a strong position for achieving the gold standard of the Local Council Award Scheme.

Concentrate on the bigger picture

However, his report added: “At times there is a preoccupation with detail and history, and debate can drift from subject matter but, by and large, the council and its committee retain the ability to concentrate on the bigger picture, core policy and business priorities.

“Having invested a significant amount of time developing agreed objectives, some members and officers have added issues to the ‘to do’ list during the year.

“To some extent this is inevitable, but there’s a tipping point where new issues begin to push aside objectives, core business and activities, and reduce the time set aside for responding to unforeseen events. In addition, they have an adverse impact on the council’s budget.

“Inevitably, the views of 14 independent members will be disparate but, occasionally, comments made go against the grain of what the council is trying to achieve and sometimes translate into negative headlines about the council and the town.

“On occasions, some members appear to want to embarrass the council and its officers. “There are officer failings too. In particular, these relate to financial controls, timely processing of invoices and delays in undertaking bank reconciliations.”

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