Published: August 10, 2012
Burnham-On-Sea Town Team leader quits after stormy meeting

The leader of Burnham-On-Sea's Town Team quit his role during a heated meeting on Thursday night (August 9th).

Alex Turco, pictured, announced he is stepping down from the position with immediate effect.

"I have been considering my schedule for the autumn and, in light of all that's gone on, I'm leaving you, " he told members at the end of the Town Team meeting in The Princess Theatre. "I will also be giving up my work on forming a Neighbourhood Plan, the business plans for The Princess and my role on the Town Team in order to focus on other things."

Alex was thanked by the group for his work during recent months, which included a major role in compiling Burnham's two bids for Mary Portas funding. Both were turned down by Local Government Minister Grant Shapps despite being acknowledged as strong bids.

One of the Town Team, Bev Milner Simonds, told "We are very sorry to see Alex go - he has brought a lot of energy and ideas to the group which will be missed. The work of the Town Team goes on, though."

During Thursday's meeting, there was further debate about the discussions held between community group BIARS (Burnham Information And Rescue Support) and Sedgemoor District Council regarding funding for a proposed new Town Centre Manager.

BIARS representative Ken Smout defended the group's position and explained that the organisation was seeking to appoint a new tourism manager and town centre manager, based at the seafront centre, following its success in generating visitors and business over the past year. "I am shocked that we have been criticised this week when all we were trying to do was the right thing for Burnham," he said.

But Mr Turco said: "The Town Team was asked to support the Town Council in gathering 20 recommendations to improve Burnham for Sedgemoor District Council to allocate some of the £320,000 of Tesco funding. Those suggestions now seem to be in abeyance. The recommendations were taken back to the full Town Council last Monday and, while not exactly spat back in our face, no decision was taken on how they should be taken forward."

"Discussions with Sedgemoor established that there was no process in place to allocate the Tesco money and take forward the recommendation to recruit a Town Centre Manager, yet it later emerged that a small window of opportunity existed for BIARS to step in and declare its interest in taking on the role. It's unclear how BIARS knew about this opportunity if it wasn't through the town councillors who sit on its management committee."

Asked why BIARS had not discussed the matter with the Town Team, Mr Smout said "the negotiations had been very sensitive and not for the public arena", but he added "we are willing to apologise if needed. We were just trying to do the right thing for Burnham by taking forward the role."

Cllr Phil Harvey said he had not wished to cast any negative aspersions on BIARS or the way it is run with his comments on the matter during Monday's town council meeting, adding that the reason he proposed the matter be re-considered by the Council's Town Improvements Committee is to allow members to properly assess the BIARS proposal.

And Cllr Helen Groves told Thursday's meeting: "I have nothing against BIARS at all, however it was absolutely unreasonable for one town councillor to say that no other groups had come forward to express an interest in taking on the Town Centre Manager role when the matter had not been publicly discussed or the opportunity given to others to come forward."

Town Team member Sylvia Young said she was "sick and tired" of the politics around the Town Centre Manager role. "Everything seems to be about point scoring, which is not why I am here," she said before walking out of the meeting.

Town Team member Tony Lynham said he is "absolutely against" the idea of creating a Town Centre Manager, but added that if one were to be appointed it must be via a free and open recruitment process with no candidate pre-selected.

Members were asked whether they felt there is still a role for the Town Team after the disappointment of the Portas funding bids and this week's discussions. Members felt there does remain a role, with Sarah Milner Simonds quoting some of the group's successes so far - around consultation surveys and the formation of several sub-teams to take forward improvements in Burnham.

The Town Team will next meet on August 28th at 6.30pm - location to be confirmed.


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