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Call for leaner town town council




Max Sawyer while still mayor Photo: Don Lambert
Max Sawyer while still mayor Photo: Don Lambert

A former Stamford mayor has proposed making several changes to the manner in which the town council is run in order to create what he believes will be a more streamlined and efficient body.

Amongst a series of proposals made by Max Sawyer, who resigned as mayor in July, is that the number of councillors be cut from 21 to “around seven or eight”.

But his suggestions have not been well received by everyone.

“As a courtesy, I circulated my ideas to all 20 Stamford Town Council (STC) councillors for their comments,” said Max.

“I received only two replies - one courteous and constructive and the other, ‘what a load of sour grapes’.”

Despite this, Max believes the council would operate more effectively if it was trimmed.

He said the council in its current format was carried over from 1974 when the Stamford Borough Council (SBC) was abolished and replaced by the STC.

“STC retained the structure of the old SBC - 21 councillors and various committees, which is unnecessary,” he said, adding the number of meetings had “proliferated” and often became “mired in trivia”, despite the council having fewer statutory responsibilities and a smaller budget.

“Both these outcomes are the result of there being too many councillors with too little to do,” he said.

“I’m not trying to criticise those on the council, but for many, including myself, it was a case of ‘failing to see the wood for the trees’.”

He said the only mandatory responsibilities the council now has are to look after its assets - the Town Hall and its contents, the Meadows, the Cemetery, the Recreation Ground, the Allotments, the War Memorial and the paved area immediately in front of it, and the small paved area adjacent to the remains of the Leet Hall at the bottom of Castle Dyke; to maintain its accounts in good order and to hold four meetings a year, one of which must be the Annual Town Meeting.

“The current budget for this is just under £500,000 per year.”

Max said that while council had involved itself in a number of other areas, these additional activities were all discretionary.

His other suggestions for a leaner council includes:

l No committees;

l No councillor to be a member of a political party or group;

l Councillors to meet as and when required (subject to statutory requirements) rather than on a fixed schedule;

l Local volunteers/working groups to be recruited if specialist advice or assistance is required;

l Responsibilities for implementing decisions to be given to those councillors expressing an interest in taking these on;

l All Standing Orders (other than those few mandated by law) to be scrapped to allow greater flexibility in meetings; and

l Revamped allocation of STC’s responsibilities.

STC clerk Patricia Stuart-Mogg said while Max had made some valuable comments, the decision was out of their hands.

“The number of councillors is governed by higher authorities and we can’t change that,” she
said.



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