Dartmouth community faces some difficult problems which need to be addressed. They include:
- The loss of our banks,
- The loss of our cottage Hospital,
- The rapidly declining high street footfall
- significant losses of £56,000 over the last two years by our signature event the Royal Dart Regatta,
- Townstal recording one of the highest levels of child poverty in the West Country at 34.54% against a South Hams average of 23.28%
All of these issues are critical to the future of Dartmouth’s community and all of them need a response to stop them continuing to decline.
Of course there are many factors effecting these changes, and they are complex and inter-related, with the reduced footfall being our main concern as it is a contributing factor to all of the other problems. Unfortunately our Councillors do not seem to accept footfall as a reliable indicator of High street activity. I quote from a report by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills way back in 2011 where they identify the number one key performance indicator for high streets as -
“Key Performance Indicator – footfall: Footfall is the key to
understanding a place. The measurement of footfall should gauge the
number and frequency of visitors to the area defined locally as the high
street or town centre, not just visitors to shops or particular attractions.”
Click on the BIS symbol to read more.
And another quote by Colliers International:
FOOTFALL AS A PERFORMANCE INDICATOR
Monitoring vacancy rates has long been a principal means of measuring the ‘health’ of the high
street. But this is primarily focusing on the ‘eff ect’ of decline rather that the ‘cause’. Quantifying
actual consumer retail expenditure at individual centres represents the ideal measure, but this
data is simply not available. The second best measure is footfall, which is an indicator of
potential spend. Even this information is difficult to generate, certainly across many locations on
a consistent basis
How is Dartmouth Town Council responding to these challenges?
In our opinion they are focused on an introspective agenda aimed at reinforcing their own status without the justification, or the resources and skills to do so. They appear to show little concern for the economic development of their town. This also applies to South Hams District Council who are choosing to place our regatta under threat by increasing their charges for road control and parking. This may fill some of their budget gaps but it represents a threat to the financial health of Dartmouth.
For example next Mondays council meeting agenda includes among other things the following items;
- Decision on holding this years Civic Dinner
- Transfer of Devolved services (liabilities) from SHDC to increase the Councils assets.
- Renaming Dartmouth Town Council to Borough Council
- Creation of a new Town Council website
- Final spending in the £350k budget to enhance the Town Councils home - the Guildhall
Couple this with the fact that, under the control of Town Council directors, our tourist organisation, the Dartmouth Visitor Center, has relinquished control of the most valuable collateral the town has for encouraging visitors to come here, our Discover Dartmouth brochure and website. The website is now so diminished by the loss of subscribers that it is no longer an accurate directory of what to do and where to stay in Dartmouth.
I return to the original question asked in the title:
Is our Town Council fit for purpose?
I am not going to answer that one but I will leave it to our readers to make their own comments on this.
I will leave you with a quote from our Town Mayor:
“Your town council, despite near constant derision from some quarters, is active and working for Dartmouth in many ways, but good news does not sell newspapers.
We have a bright future in this town, despite the activities of the naysayers.
Cllr Richard Cooke
Mayor of Dartmouth”