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In my opinion: Council chief executive failed to mention her councillors

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 15, 2013

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Three things strike me after reading Liz Parks' interview with Plymouth City Council boss Tracey Lee.

First, Tracey is quite right to say we need to put the far South West on the map. Some folk up the line have little idea of our geography. After a cordial dinner, in London, with then local government minister Hazel Blears, she wished me well and exclaimed as she left the room "Torbay...that's Bournemouth, isn't it?"

Secondly, you are quite wrong to write that Plymouth working with neighbouring Councils on its bid for City Deal status is "the first such initiative that has brought the authorities together around the table".

During the latter part of my term of office as Elected Mayor of Torbay, regular meetings took place, generally in Plymouth as it happens, attended by the chief executives and council leaders (Elected Mayor in the case of Torbay) of Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon and Torbay. These were incredibly useful in building relationships between the four upper tier authorities and helped smooth the way for joint projects such as the waste to energy plant, South Devon Link Road and the wider shared services agenda. The four Councils were able to learn a lot from each other. It is something of a pity if these meetings have been discontinued. There were moments of humour also, such as when Barry Keel, then Plymouth Chief Executive, had to lend the Torbay party some cash to pay for our parking, charges then being even higher in Plymouth than Torbay. I wonder if he ever got his money back?

This working together for the benefit of the far South West was dealt something of a blow when Cornish politics got in the way and Cornwall decided to set up their own Local Enterprise Partnership, thus weakening our endeavours to promote broadly based economic recovery and regeneration. But then Cornish politics, it seems, has recently rather got in the way of even the Cornish working together. No wonder their council chief executive, Kevin Lavery, who I rate highly, has decided to take a post on the other side of the globe. I wish him well.

Thirdly, throughout this interview with Tracey Lee, there is absolutely no mention of any of the councillors or council leaders, their wishes or aspirations for the City of Plymouth, which seems rather tactless, to say the least. Who is supposed to be calling the shots in Plymouth?

Perhaps they should have an Elected Mayor, after all.

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