LYME Regis Town Council’s unprecedented decision to employ security guards to patrol the seafront was not supported by all members, it has been revealed, with one describing it as “a waste of money”.
The council took the decision earlier this month to employ security guards to patrol the seafront on a nightly basis, following increased reports of anti-social behaviour in Langmoor and Lister gardens.
The guards started patrols on July 17 and will continue to patrol nightly through the main summer season, for a total cost of £10,080.
As the council is not holding regular meetings due to coronavirus restrictions, the decision to employ the guards was made via delegated authority by the town clerk and mayor. However, the mayor has said that all councillors were consulted, with almost all responding in support of the proposal.
But during last night’s virtual meeting, Councillor Michaela Ellis said she was not happy with the decision, adding that she thought it was “disgusting” to spend taxpayers’ money on what she considered police work.
Dorset Police has stepped up evening patrols in Lyme Regis and utilised section 35 dispersal powers, meaning officers can move on groups of people and have power to make arrests if they return within a set period.
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, said he agreed that the issue should be dealt with by police but they currently had limited resources and the security guards were employed to “bridge the gap”.
He added that a lot of residents he had spoken to were in favour of the scheme, but Councillor Ellis that there were also a lot against it.
“We should not waste our money,” she added.
The mayor replied: “What else would you do? The police can’t do anymore so we had to do something.”
Councillor Richard Doney also questioned the value for money of the security guards
He requested that council officers supply members with before and after statistics for the numbers of complaints made, the instructions given to the security guards and a copy of their nightly logs.
Councillor David Ruffle said he was concerned the issue of anti-social behaviour would not disappear after the main summer season, as most of those causing problems lived locally, and he asked what the council’s long-term plan was.
Councillor Larcombe said he had been in contact with the police and Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner to make it clear that Lyme had been “badly served”, and he would continue to communicate with them.
However, he described the current problem as “desperate”, adding that he had received numerous emails and calls of complaint in the middle of the night about the noise disruption, with some nearby residents saying they had to move to another property over the weekends just to get some sleep.
Town clerk John Wright added: “It’s early days as we are only two weeks in but we have had no complaints since patrols starts, and there were about five parties in the gardens every week keeping people awake before.
“There were no signs of it going away and it was a significant problem. The guards have also helped with other minor issues on the seafront.
“It’s not ideal and in an ideal world we would not want to spend money on this.”