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JIM PARKER: Husband and wife stepping down

By Herald Express  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

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IT'S sad to say, but husband and wife Torbay councillors Alan and Jenny Faulkner have had enough. The well-known duo are to call it a day after more than 20 years and are not standing in the next council elections.

They put their decision down to a combination of advancing years and increasing disillusionment with what they say is an undemocratic mayoral system.

They think the system has left most back-bench councillors struggling to have any impact outside the work they do in their wards.

They also question whether under the one-man (or person) -in-charge regime 36 councillors are needed.

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But they also believe that if a councillor is given a portfolio that is a full-time job, it needs to be rewarded accordingly if younger people are to be encouraged to take on such vital roles.

As dedicated Liberal Democrat councillors, both believe the national government coalition with Conservatives has done their party no favours and fear for the repercussions in the General Election — although they believe the work of local Lib Dem councillors in their wards will stand them in good stead come next May.

Jenny was first elected for Tormohun in 1991 and Alan joined her three years later, first in Cockington with Chelston and later for St Marychurch.

In the space of five years Jenny was deputy mayoress with the late Lib Dem leader Barry Spencer and took over as mayoress when he died in office, as well as being deputy mayor to then mayor Nick Bye and then mayor.

Among her favourite moments was being presented to the Queen with Alan when they were visiting the Bay's twin town of Hamelin.

She was also mentioned by MEPs during a debate in the European Parliament when she and officers went to lobby over threats to charge Britain more for a water clean up off its shores because it is an island.

She remembers: "We spent the day lobbying. I sat and listened to the debate at about midnight, and we were mentioned in the debate as they wanted to recognise the fact someone had come from England, from an area they had never heard of, as it was very rare. They even stood and clapped."

Throughout her career Jenny has championed the cause of the Bay's young people such as carers. She has been education spokesman and has also chaired the leisure and tourism committee.

She said: "The young people in the Bay have never ceased to amaze me today."

Alan was twice deputy leader of the council and held the environment portfolio and chaired the licensing committee for nine years.

Among the achievements he is most proud of was his role in getting Torbay to be the first area in the country to get all its nightclub stewards licensed which was taken up by government countrywide.

He was also involved in getting the first safe bus on Torquay harbourside for revellers.

Of their decision to stand down, Alan said: "Throughout the years Jenny has been more involved than I have. But we are getting increasingly frustrated and depressed. We just don't have any opportunity to fight our corner and get things done as we did."

Jenny said: "There is no way to debate anything before it goes to council when, I believe, it is a done deal. There are no committees, there is no Cabinet. There are little groups which meet occasionally to discuss a problem, and we are told they will look into it, but that is as far as it goes under this mayoral system.

"In my view, scrutiny isn't working the way it should do. That is the most important part of this system. Then when it does, it is ignored."

Jenny said there had been great achievements, for example in bringing Hele together and resolving some of its community problems.

"It really needed looking after and it took seven years of hard work with the community and the hospital, before the days when we worked together.

"The community did it themselves with the help of the councillors and now we have the centre and Hele's Angels.

"The improvements are absolutely fantastic, though there are still things to be done.

"But it is not being done elsewhere because there isn't the money, which I think is a false economy.

"Also, in some areas you have now sometimes non-elected community representatives taking the lead and councillors sidelined. I would like to see them working together more.

"There should be more democracy in the community as well as in the town hall."

Alan said that after more than 20 years, they felt younger people should have the opportunity to do more.

"But young people working and paying for mortgages cannot afford the time to devote to the work. The system needs to change."

Both wanted to thank the people who have supported them over the years.

Jenny said: "Its not just Lib Dems but Conservatives, officers, residents — we have a lot to thank them for. We are 'people' people and have thoroughly enjoyed our time on the council."

I have a lot of time and respect for Alan and Jenny Faulkner. We haven't always seen eye to eye on some issues — for instance Alan was dead against the fish restaurant plan for Babbacombe Downs a few years ago. I was in favour. We agreed to disagree but just got on with it.

There are certainly lessons to be learned there.

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