Tracey Lewis’s election flyer makes interesting reading.
Unfortunately, with minor exceptions, every single one of the issues that she’s mentioned is not controlled or delivered by South Molton Town Council.
Whilst her issues are very important, and the Town Council could certainly lobby harder and more openly at both the District Council and County Council level, it can do very little indeed to directly address any of these issues.
What I would do as a town councillor is to concentrate on those areas where the council can make a difference: lots of relatively small things could be done quickly that would make South Molton a more attractive place to live in, work in, and to visit.
For example, I would encourage Town Centre Regeneration by:
- Smartening up the rear of the Pannier Market and Assembly rooms;
- Holding more community events in the Pannier Market;
- Cleaning all the signs in the town, and on its approaches, so that they can be seen and are easy to read;
- Ensuring that the council’s hedges are trimmed back frequently;
- Making a bid to take over the trimming of hedges and weeds that are currently the responsibility of other authorities;
- Putting bike stands on the Enhancement;
- Taking down Christmas decorations once Christmas is over.
The BIG questions that need to be asked are:
- Why does the façade of the Town Hall need to be repaired so soon after it was last done?
- Is it right and proper for the Town Council to be spending in excess of £100,000 on roads at Pathfields?
- Should they be selling off so many of the town’s assets to enable housing development?
All these issues would directly concern me as a Town Councillor.
To go back to where I began, I’d just like to remind Tracey Lewis that Devon County Council is responsible for:
- Care of the elderly;
- Road and footpath maintenance including weed and hedge cutting;
- Youth services;
- On-street parking, disabled bays, and parking restrictions (e.g. double and single yellow lines).
The Community Hospital, like the Renal Unit, is controlled and funded by the NHS.
North Devon District Council is responsible for:
- The vast majority of off-street parking e.g. central car park and lorry park;
- Enforcing the law which obliges the person in charge of a dog to clean up dog fouling.
The Town Council controls parking in the Pannier Market and rents out a few off-street parking place e.g. at the top of New Road. It also provides a few dog bins.
Hmm! It’s difficult to know where to start here but I’ll start with naming the town councillors. I think the councillors are known by far more people that Tracey suspects. People might not know all of them but they would certainly know quite a few – possibly without realising that they are town councillors.
A very good reason for holding surgeries is that they are usually held in conjunction with the county councillor or district councillors, thus killing two birds with one stone so-to-speak. Another reason is that because they’re at a set time and at a set place you know that a councillor will be there. Many of the councillors are out and about in town quite a lot any way and speak to people all the time about the issues that concern them. Besides which this is the era of the phone and email.
Which Council deals with what? It’s not a question of being ‘fobbed off’. It’s a question of trying to educate people as to which authority is responsible for what so that they know who to contact, and so their opinions can be properly formed when it comes to elections for the district and county councils (and, indeed, the parliamentary elections). Of course town councillors can help people get things sorted out at the district or county level. But you don’t have to be a councillor to do that. I’ve been doing it for quite some time without having been a councillor.