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Annual Town Meeting

Free ice cream among laws suggested at annual town meeting

TONGUE-IN-CHEEK laws suggested by youngsters at the Newton Abbot Annual Town Meeting on Saturday [May 19] included free ice cream, daughter and mother days every day, and for strawberries to rain from the sky on Fridays.

A more reflective idea was to plant three trees for every one felled while one dad, Sean Kirby, called for the legalisation of pot… hole filling.

The proposals were captured on rosettes created by the children who wore them with pride to spread the ‘vote me’ message.

The free fun activity reflected the more serious aim of the day which was to gather public opinion about services and facilities in the town.

Each community is legally bound to hold an annual meeting but most take place in halls or council chambers, often during the evening, meaning very few residents attend.

For several years Newton Abbot Town Council has instead erected a gazebo in the main shopping centre during the busiest part of the day, resulting in thousands of people having their say on countless topics.

Saturday’s event was another success with hundreds of conversations taking place between elected members, council staff and passers by.

‘I’m thrilled with the number of people we’ve engaged with, yet another very worthwhile exercise with the town council reaching out to the public,’ said Mayor Cllr David Corney-Walker.

‘Most comments I heard were about our changing high streets, something being seen across the country of course, as more businesses go online.

‘But the good news in Newton Abbot is that our shop vacancy rate is well below the national average and the Town Council is constantly adding to the events programme so people still have plenty of reasons to visit.

‘We’re listening to the public and will do everything we can to keep Newton Abbot streets ahead of the web.’

Town Clerk Phil Rowe said more than 150 engagement forms had been handed out, in addition to the face-to-face conversations.

‘There’s not a council chamber in the country that would attract an audience that size,’ he said. ‘Staging the Newton Abbot Annual Meeting in the street is here to stay.’

The Annual Town Meeting is not a council meeting, but one hosted by the authority to enable residents to quiz members and officers on their past year’s work or raise matters of interest to electors.

It is a requirement of Local Government Act 1972 for town and parish councils to stage such events between March 1 – June 1 inclusive.

Below: Facilities Maintenance Officers Tony Little (L) and Steve Ryan show off some of the low and high tech cleaning kit

Below: Families enjoy the rosette and law-proposing activity with Mayor Cllr David Corney-Walker in attendance

Below: Mayor Cllr David Corney-Walker prepares to meet with the public

Below: Sean Kirby and three-year-old son Ellis wearing their rosettes. Sean wanted to legalise pot… hole repairs while Ellis asked for free ice cream.