Big row in the council chamber last night, not unusual here in Torbay. This row was about the position of elected mayor. About 7 years ago central government decided that the people of a local authority could have an elected mayor if they wanted. We, the people of Torbay decided that anything would be better than letting elected councillors run the place. A brief note here to show you what I mean. I have lived in Torquay through 4 local elections. Each time there has been an election, power in the council has changed hands from LibDem to Tory and back again. There are no Labour councillors, nor to my knowledge have there been any over the last twelve years. When I arrived the Tories were top dogs but defeated by the LibDems. One of the things the LibDems did was perdestrianise the bottom end of Union Street. As soon as the Tory party got in at the next election they promised to change this "monstrous mistake" and re-open the road to traffic even though just about everybody else said it was the best thing since sliced bread. The held at least 5 council meeting to discuss this idea at a cost of thousands of pounds per meeting before bowing to public pressure and leaving things as the were. Next election in 2005 the LibDems got back in. Now for this constant see sawing to be taking place suggests that neither party managed, in three years, to convince the voters that they knew what they were doing. Or more to the point had the best interests of Torbay at heart. Also in 2005 we had a slightly dodgy referendum about the election of a mayor and we ended up with Nick Bye. The general feeling is he hasn't done overwhelming well. The LibDems made a complete cock by voting to close public toilets around the Bay as they were costing too much to run. Now this idea wasn't very popular. We tend to have a lot of people living here who were born before or during WW2 and as you get older knowledge of where the nearest toilets are gets more important. Many of our summer visitors are of the same ilk so Torbay could have ended up with the biggest number of people arrested for peeing in public in the country. Not a good reputation for a holiday town. Anyway a few weeks after the toilets were closed we found out why the councillors wanted to save money when the LibDems voted themselves a pay rise, a big pay rise. Nearly a million quid. It came as no big surprise when at the next election the LibDems found themselves on the losing side.
Now we have had two and a half years with Tories in power and they seem to have done next to nothing to improve the place. OK there is the balloon on Abbey Gardens. It flies about 2 days a week if we are lucky. And there is the Fish Restaurant in Babbacombe. Actually there isn't, it got scrapped because there was too much public opposition to it. And there is Rock Walk. Three million quid and 3 years disruption for stair way up a cliff face. And not even a hot dog stall at the top. Oh yes. The development of the old Palm Court Hotel. Except the developer went bust 2 years ago and still no sign of a new developer.
I could go on but I'm not going to. I you don't live in Torbay you wouldn't believe me if I listed all the things that have made some people loose confidence in our council and elected mayor. Like I could have mentioned the Churston Golf Club grand sell out.
No. Back to last night.
The LibDems, because they know their man won't win. want to see if the people of Torbay can vote to get rid of the position of Elected mayor before next May . No we can't. Central government rules say we have to wait for ten years to change our minds about having a dictator run the place. And the LibDems should know this. If the don't, then what else don't they know? The Tories put in a blocking amendment and everybody had a good old slanging match so the council leader said they were behaving like a bunch of'overgrown schoolboys." and brought the debate to a close.
Someone once said that we get the politicians we deserve. If they didn't then they should have.
Foot note. There are only 11 elected mayors in England out of 346 local authorities and one of those, to get elected, ran round dressed in a money suit and promised free bananas for schools. Says it all really.