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Opinion: Mayoral duty is an honour and should not be given on party lines

Being the mayor of your home town is an honour – that is a fact.

As such it should be bestowed on someone who has a proven track record of serving the community.

Which in my opinion means the choice of who gets to wear the chain of office should be totally non-political and should be made simply on a person’s track record.

Franki suffered rope like burns to his neck after being caught up in a retractable dog lead.
Franki suffered rope like burns to his neck after being caught up in a retractable dog lead.

That means that no matter what party has the most representatives on one of our local councils the honour of being mayor should be shared among councillors of all political hues.

Which is why it is disappointing that March Town Council has chosen to given the honour once again to a Conservative, rather than a serving member of the Labour party.

This not at all disparaging towards Councillor Kim French, who has proven a very worthy mayor for the town. She has represented March with dignity and with dedication and I could not fault her holding the position, one iota.

Having said that, she has had the privilege four times already, so when the mayor chosen in May this year decided to step down last month, it would have been the perfect opportunity to see a candidate from an ‘opposition’ party, who has served as a councillor for a lot years, chosen to take the chain.

Martin Field, a staunch Labour supporter, was put forward for the role. He has been a councillor for many, many years and I would argue has earned the right to wear the mayoral robes.

However, when a vote was held the largely Conservative membership voted to elect Kim to serve for a fifth term – making it her fourth on the bounce, so to speak.

As I said, I am not in anyway criticising Kim, she is a brilliant councillor. But I think in the name of fairness it would have been nice to see Martin given the role, in recognition of his long-service to March – both as a councillor and formerly as a teacher.

The person currently holding the deputy mayor title was only elected to the council in May, and yet, if things go according to plan, he will be mayor next year.

I have heard March Town Councillors say politics should not play a part in local government at such a parochial level, and it is a sentiment I wholeheartedly support.

But clearly saying it, and acting on it are not quite the same thing…

Retractable dog leads have been in the headlines this week following an incident involving a local schoolboy.

At this point I suppose I ought to declare an interest because as a dog owner I have used them in the past.

But what happened to young Franki Brown in March West End Park has raised valid concerns over these lengthy leashes.

Whilst it means the owner still has a hold of their dog, and the dog has more freedom than on a regular lead, the quality of control of the pet owner has may not be the best.

The leads can extend for up to 8m that’s 24ft – that’s quite a distance from the handler to the dog. It means should the need arise the owner has to reel their pup in, and that can be easier said than done at such a distance.

I firmly believe all dogs no matter how big, small or well-behaved they are should be kept on a lead in places where there are lots of people –such as parks.

After all not everyone appreciates a pooch running up to them – however friendly they might be.

Retractable leads don’t necessarily stop that from happening.

And as demonstrated by what happened to young Franki, where he was caught round the neck by one as he pedalled his way through West End Park in March, they are not particularly practical for the handler to use either.

The person holding the lead opted to try to lift the lead over Franki’s head as the dog was on one side of the public footpath/cycle way and he was on the other.

The result the lead hit Franki in the neck – fortunately no lasting damage was caused – but it would not have happened at all if a regular lead was in use.

I get owners want to give their dogs as much freedom as possible, as I said I have used them myself in the past, but I have to admit I did not always feel totally in control of our exuberant Border Collie.

So maybe it is time to have a rethink on this type of lead, or at the very least for owners to consider their surroundings before letting the dog have the full length of it to roam…

The relocation site of March’s historic Fountain has been determined once and for all.

And I don’t think it is much of a surprise that councillors have decided to stick to the original plan.

If I’m honest I was quite surprised when they actually agreed to re-examine their original decision as a result of public opinion.

But I suspect the outcome was never really in doubt.

Fenland’s cabinet members feared Historic England would not have been happy with any of the alternatives being proposed – but as far as I can see no one actually approached them and asked the relevant question outright.

Instead a 290 page report simply said “following discussion with Historic England it is likely that this location would not be supported”.

“Likely it would not be supported” – is not an outright ‘no’ – and maybe if the councillors had dared to push for a change of location they might have even persuaded Historic England to go with it – but we will never know if that could have been the case.

As they basically decided to stick with a decision, that was made with very little consultation, and has upset a large swathe of the local population and businesses...

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