Last Tuesday the new Town Council met for the first time with its new members in place and with changed composition of political parties.  One thing that did not alter was that councillors asked me to stay on as chair of your council. With so many new faces in the mix, my continued chairmanship should hopefully give a degree of continuity to ensure that our permanent staff are supported, and that we keep moving forward while new members acquire a greater understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
It is my pleasure to report that Wayne Frapple is now the new vice-chair of the council. I’ve known Wayne for many years and I’m confident that he will do a really good job as my deputy.
The council also had to decide on who to co-opt to become the 8th Shepton West councillor after only 7 people came forward to stand for election in that ward.  This was a difficult choice as we had five candidates who presented their often passionate cases to be selected. Councillors then voted and Tristan Faith, representing the Future Shepton Party, was chosen.
No matter what their political affiliations or none, all councillors have been elected to work for the benefit of our town, and hopefully be held to account for their election promises. The council now comprises of members from the following registered political parties: 4 Liberal Democrats, 4 from the Future Shepton Party, 3 Conservatives, 1 Labour, and 1 from the Shepton Residents Party.  3 independents make up the remainder of the council.
At the meeting, councillors also made a recommendation to Mendip District’s planning officers that there should be a three year extension to the planning application to renew permission for the redevelopment of Shepton Mallet Prison. The town council has twice before supported the previous application to allow the developers, City and Country, to convert this complex set of listed buildings to homes and a community space.
I left the room and took no part in the discussion on this development because I live close to the prison. Being a councillor means you have observe the “Nolan Principles” that guides conduct in public life. This dictates that you have to be impartial so people can be confident that decisions are based on the merits of the case, not on any personal interest.
The Sunday Market returned after a 2 month gap and once again the town council supported a range of well received entertainment.  Sadly, the footfall last weekend was disappointing.  There has been frustration on the part of the committed volunteers that the event needs more consistent support and greater and effective promotion and management to thrive. The new Town Council will work with the team of local champions in partnership with Mendip District Council to strengthen and build this important community event.
Today we have the opportunity to vote in the European elections. It may be an election that many thought would never happen, but it remains important that we use our hard fought for democratic right to express our wishes.
Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council