Sidmouth town councillor stepping down for ‘family and personal’ reasons

Matt Booth

Matt Booth - Credit: Archant

Councillor Matt Booth pledges to work positively with authority in his role as a district council ward member, but said he was ‘unable to continue’ after spat with chairman

A Sidmouth town councillor, who is stepping down for family reasons, has pledged to continue ‘positive’ work in his role with the district authority.

Councillor Matt Booth (pictured) revealed in a parting statement that, aside from his primary, personal motivation for leaving, he also feels ‘unable to continue’ following a run-in with chairman Cllr Jeff Turner last year.

A dispute over the future of the Ham came to a head in October’s council meeting when the chairman accused Cllr Booth of ‘scaremongering’ after he publicly added weight to claims the seafront site could be lost to facilitate the regeneration of Port Royal.

Cllr Booth at the time defended his right to speak out for his constituents and said, this week, that he had not wanted to get involved in a ‘tit-for-tat’ situation, but felt he could not remain under the circumstances.

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The West ward councillor - who has resigned following a move to Plymouth - added that while they may have had ‘personal differences’, he believed Cllr Turner to be ‘excellent’ in his role and expressed a wish to maintain and build a positive relationship with the town council.

Cllr Booth – who will stay on as an East Devon District Council (EDDC) ward member – said: “I believe very strongly that it is important both that the chair and the town council work very closely with all district ward members for Sidmouth across all relevant issues.

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“It is important to remember that district ward members are all residents of Sidmouth who care passionately about the town and invest a considerable amount of time and effort in looking to ensure Sidmouth attains the best results and outcomes from EDDC.”

He cited the rejection of controversial planning applications at Knowle and for an employment park at Sidford as examples where district ward members were working to the same ends as the town council and responding to the wishes of residents.

Cllr Booth was elected in October 2015 and added his thanks to Cllr Turner – and the town council as a whole – for their hard work and for welcoming him into the role.

On the resignation, Cllr Turner said: “I did have a difference of opinion with Cllr Booth and, looking back, I still feel I was justified in what I said, because what he was saying was not helpful to the council [which holds the Ham site in trust].

“I wish him well for the future and thank him for his contribution to the town.”

The town council is advertising a casual vacancy following Cllr Booth’s resignation. In order for an election to be called, at least 10 electors need to notify the town clerk by the deadline of February 7. If the necessary people do not come forward in this period, the council will co-opt a candidate to take on the role.

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