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Monday, October 23, 2017

Our 1st Mayor, 8th April 2013

Chris Nelder

Dulverton's 1st Mayor resigns on 8th April 2013 as
 Dulverton's Mayor & Councillor

 

I first became a Councillor in 1996 having been co-opted by existing members and was elected to the dizzy height of chairman in October 2001.

The minister who is ultimately responsible for the functions of local councils is the secretary of state for the environment and it is from his department that policy and legislation is disseminated.

Local government works on a three tier system: county, district and finally town or parish.

For many years the local councils were the poor relation of local government, but were strengthened by the local government act of 1972. Some of this legislation has been substantially amended to provide greater autonomy for local councils and to strengthen the representational role of town councils.

Dulverton Town Council consists of the chairman and currently nine Councillors and holds eleven main meetings annually. However when issues arise requiring urgent attention, the chairman may call an extra-ordinary meeting.

Local Councillors are elected for a term of four years and on accepting the position must sign an agreement to abide by the code of conduct and register any interests the may have which affect their objectivity when making decisions during meetings.

A local council has the power to make standing orders for the regulation of its proceedings and business at meetings, however the secretary of state for the environment is empowered to prescribe "core" standing orders, which must be adopted. The public and press are invited to public meetings and cannot be excluded without good reason.

The responsibilities of this Town Council include the management and maintenance of a cemetery, two play areas, a sports field and the supervision of three car parks from which it is able to derive some income. Income is also obtained by issuing a precept each year to the District Council stating its budget requirements for the forthcoming financial year.

We are empowered to make grants to voluntary bodies where in the councils opinion, the grant would benefit any part of the community or the inhabitants.

It is also notified in writing of every planning application in the area and given the opportunity to make representations to the E.N.P.A. and W.S.C. planning authorities.

Committees are appointed to discharge most of these functions at the annual general meeting.

There are many current issues which the council is concerned with including environmental and historical preservation, road safety, public transport and crime.

We are privileged to live in a beautiful part of the country, which this council is anxious to maintain in partnership with other authorities such as Exmoor National Park, county and district, the environmental agency and the police.

Like all communities this town is home to a wide range of people with differing needs and values. It is important that knowledge of village and small town administration should be publicly accessible. That local government is open and accountable to the community in which they serve. They have an essential relationship with "real" communities forming a bulwark against a remote government.

The council sees itself as the mechanism for all residents to participate in issues, which are important to them. It is able to unite a community through elected representation and has the opportunity to test and challenge development and growth proposals for the community.

It is individuals who live and work in the community who accept all this responsibility on a purely volunteer basis, unlike all other tiers of government who receive some form of financial remuneration and have considerable administrative support.

I am very aware that to have a progressive, active council you require very committed individuals who are willing to give up their precious personal time in order to carry out their duties effectively. Time is spent attending not only council meetings but various committee meetings, as well as meetings of other organisations with which we work closely.

For these and many other reasons, as chairman, I am extremely grateful to my colleagues for their dedication.

I believe that I can speak for my fellow Councillors when I say that it is a privilege to work on behalf of this community and despite times of considerable frustration at having to wade through reams of red tape, great satisfaction is obtained when when the results of hard work prove so successful.

As we continue with our work we are increasingly aware of challenging times ahead. The current government is introducing policies and legislation, which will devolve more responsibility to local government and are intent on ensuring that the structure is there to support it.

In my opinion there may come a time when the voluntary aspect of our work is called into question. But for the present it is the volunteers who are the foundation stones of our democratic form of government.

Chris Nelder