John Tucker, Leader of South Hams District Council - “your welcome to our liabilities!”

In a revealing article on the front page of the Dartmouth Chronicle, Cllr John Tucker, leader of South Hams District Council, made no secret of his doubts about the proposed “Asset” transfer to Dartmouth Town Council. To read the full article click on the Chronicle headline below.

Dartmouth Chronicle headlines

Reading between the lines he clearly views this proposal as somewhat foolhardy. He criticises the fact that only two Dartmouth Councillors came up with the financial projections that resulted in the decision, and highlights the fact that no other Councillors had been involved in preparing that financial projection. The evidence of this was clear at the recent Council meeting where many Councillors challenged the financial justification for the “Asset transfer”.

What is also clear is that South Hams will not step in to rescue DTC if the liability transfer goes ahead and proves to be unsustainable. We will be stuck with the costs long term.

Our views on this are very clear. Why would any organisation agree to take on liabilities from another organisation which, in the short and long term will cost the residents additional council tax? What makes Dartmouth Town Councillors think they can manage the upkeep of these liabilities better than South Hams District can. South Hams have the staff resources, the capital equipment and the administrative skills to manage the upkeep of these areas. Dartmouth Town Council does not.

The Town Council has not been transparent in the information they have made public. There is no public record that I can find of the detailed financial projections behind this decision. And the attitude of the Council to how these assets can be used was brought home tragically during the recent debate over the future of the Woofstock festival. Coronation Park is common land meant for the beneficial use of the residents of Dartmouth. Woofstock was a brilliant example of the benefits that can accrue but was opposed by the Town Council for unknown reasons. It would be interesting to know what those reasons were but I suspect it was the personal views of Councillors rather than the interests of the 94% of residents who supported Woofstock in the Chronicle survey.

Once again we believe Cllr Steve Smith accurately represents the views of his electorate with the following comment made to this website in January this year:

“I repeat my previous comments as printed in the Dartmouth Chronicle a couple of weeks back…”Proposed Asset Transfer of loss making services to Dartmouth Town Council…Don’t touch it with a barge pole…still standby that, had the package included the asset transfers of the money making services, Lower Ferry and Mayors Avenue Car Park, then that would go someway to offset the losses incurred on loss making services…regretfully this is not on the table so my barge pole theory still stands, even though the against vote lost, we have got to accept that..its democracy, cant win them all, however I am still staying on as Cllr to fight corners…my philosophy has and always been “Its better to pee out of the tent than pee in it.”


  1. How right Cllr Smith proved to be! The asset (liability) transfer has resulted in big increases in Council tax for Dartmouth residents in 2021 for no noticeable gain. The Council gardeners do a great job but I would prefer SHDC to be paying them. No way back now!!!!

  2. What a timely reminder that the previous Town Council, took on a host of assets ( or liabilities!) with no plan of how it was going to fund their upkeep and maintenance . Rather disingenuously, three Councillors who were very involved in that asset transfer have now resigned saying they disagree with the rise in our precept for 2021-22, which is needed to fund those very same assets they took on ! While Dartmouth Council has had no option but to increase the precept , we are commencing a refurbishment programme which will ultimately generate some income for the town and go some way to offsetting the costs of maintaining our portfolio. The only other unpalatable option would have been to dip into the Towns reserves ( something it now transpires the previous administration did ) but in reality this is only kicking the problem further down the road. It is impossible to turn the clock back and the Town Council is determined make best of the situation it has inherited .

  3. Whilst it is nice to feel that our local team have a degree of control over the availability and standard of some of the open spaces around town, there will be a lot of people who will have looked at it at the time and now sy ‘I told you so’ but of course were not then or later any position to do anything about it. A local referendum on the subject? Too late now as you say. a reduction in the main Council tax to balance with the increased precept, or just an annual grant from SHDC. Neither is going to happen. There is a lot that volunteers can and do achieve but with a town that already runs on volunteers in so many ways I don’t think there would be much of a take-up for the tasks involved here. Looks like we are stuck with the rises in precept.

    • This won’t get better and the reality is that the town has to be pragmatic. Sales of some assets are inevitable. Many of us said at the time that taking liabilities with no income was suicidal. I admire the attempt to manage these but refurbishing in the long term won’t deliver the income. The three District Councillors who voted for this to the detriment of the town must now lobby the council and the MP to resolve this.

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