Conflict in the Council Chamber
At last nights Town Council meeting two Councillors were particularly outspoken in their criticism of District Councillor Hawkins role in the recent failed merger between South Hams District Council and West Devon Council. Both Councillor Fyson and Councillor Springett attacked Councillor Hawkins of SHDC over his vote to support the merger of the two District Councils.
Dartmouth Business News believes these criticisms were unreasonable and in fact quite embarrassing. The proposal to merge the councils was based on the central government demand to reduce bureaucratic overhead and thereby save costs. This is aimed at securing the vital services provided by the District Councils for the long term.
Unfortunately only 4% of people in the district engaged in the debate with a high proportion opposing the merger. We believe this was because the District failed to highlight the cost saving advantages of this proposal. Instead pointing out that there would be a rate rise for SHDC residents to bring them in line with West Devon residents. This was clearly a tactical mistake. This engagement level also shows that most residents do not engage with local government processes and are therefore in my opinion prepared to let Councillors do their job.
The decision by West Devon Council to reject the proposed merger simply illustrates the cavalier approach they have to financial management which has resulted in their dire financial position. I agree that SHDC did a poor job in selling the merger to their constituents which is a shame. The survey made it look like a done deal which reduced its value and probably put many people off completing it.
I personally found the attack by Cllr Fyson to be particularly arrogant and offensive. Cllr Hawkins voted with his conscience, faced with equal support for both sides of the argument from his parish councils. I believe he was right in his views and the lack of respect shown by Cllr Fyson was both embarrassing and totally unnecessary. Cllr. Springett did at least show his appreciation for Cllr Hawkins attendance.
I also suggest that Dartmouth Town Councillors need to examine their own cavalier approach to financial management with their recent record of expenditure on the Guildhall and planned takeover of liabilities from SHDC.