MINEHEAD Town Council ushered in a new era as more than 60 people packed into Minehead Social Club for the town’s annual meeting.

It was the first meeting of the council since the local elections, where no political parties stood, meaning the town council is made up entirely of independent candidates.

Cllr Sandra Slade has taken up the role of mayor, while Cllr Paul Bolton will be the deputy mayor.

Cllr Slade began the meeting explaining how it had been a tumultuous year for the council, with major shifts in the dynamics of the council from being Conservative-led to Independent, a report by external auditors highlighting a number of flaws that would had to be addressed and the resignation of the town clerk meaning three consecutive council meetings were cancelled.

However Cllr Slade said the acting town clerk and responsible financial officer Brian Howe and Andy Giles had done excellent work to help stabilise the council which was now being continued by the new clerk Jenny Bashford.

Cllr Slade said: “Your new independent councillors are here to work for the benefit of the town.

“We will not practice collective voting, meaning each member is able to vote individually as to what they think is best on each matter.

“We are optimistic, but equally ask for patience - Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we are here to listen and to help to the best of our ability.”

The meeting heard updates from a number of community groups including reports from Minehead Youth Club, Hope For Tomorrow, Engage and Minehead Literary Festival, as well as brief talks from county councillors Mandy Chilcott and Christine Lawrence, as well as new Somerset West and Taunton chief executive James Hassett.

The last section of the meeting included a question and answer session.

Former Minehead Chamber of Commerce chairman asked about the Minehead Bay rebranding, saying it all seemed to have gone very quiet.

Although mainly the remit of Minehead Coastal Community Team, Andrew Hopkins, Minehead BID manager said there were discussions ongoing how to best market the town and that the BID were keen to bring in bunting, flags and hanging baskets in the near future.

Another resident asked about the possibility of a swimming pool - but while there was clear enthusiasm around the room at the idea, SW&T chief executive James Hassett said: “I’m not saying it won’t happen, but we would have to take serious discussions about funding.

“A new pool would cost £7million to build and then £250,000 to maintain. At the moment I do not know where that money would come from. We would undertake a cost/benefit analysis and see if there was anyway it could be viable if it was something your councillors wanted to prioritise.”

Minehead resident Michael Burke asked whether the town council had any interest in trying to re-open Clanville Gardens, however Cllr Slade said that with all the other issues on their plate such as sorting out the toilets and the new community building, it would not be a priority for the time being.

A fellow resident asked what was happening with the cafe in Blenheim Gardens as it was a shame it remained closed with the summer season fast approaching.

Mr Hassett said he would be looking at whether a temporary arrangement could be found with a vendor while a long term solution was sought for the cafe.

New district councillor Marcus Kravis asked whether it would be possible for the town council to take control of Blenheim Gardens from the district council, however again Cllr Slade said: “We only got a small amount of funding to take over the toilets, and these things do cost money.

“That has to come from somewhere but I do think it is a shame."