For the past few weeks I was knocking on doors and talking to residents for the Plymouth City council elections. Potholes and pavements are the greatest local concern – it’s not just the South Hams. All parties claimed to be the ‘mend-a-pothole champions.’ The truth is I’m sure we’ll all try and do our best but, in the end, central government funding (or lack of it) is the biggest factor. Good news that County has found some extra money. Let’s hope it’s spent effectively and efficiently.

Congratulations to Labour and their council leader Tudor Evans on a resounding victory in Plymouth. In the South Hams we know how important our relationship with Plymouth will be. Despite the new, so-called devolution deal, we will be looking to develop this relationship between the two local authorities for mutual benefit.

We already have the Joint Local Plan (JLP.) This is the document on which planning decisions are decided. It also includes West Devon and is an excellent example of what working together can achieve.

We are also part of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport. It may not be to everyone’s taste. At the council we have taken the pragmatic path to stay within the freeport project. It is crucial we work with Plymouth to achieve the best possible result for our local residents.

Another issue on the doorstep was a feeling that Plymouth was not reaching its full potential. People are fed up with the constant bickering between political parties and indeed within them. They just want all councillors from whatever party to work together for the good of their communities.

We’re trying to do that in the South Hams. Last May we, the Liberal Democrats, swept to power. It’s the first time we’ve been in control in the council’s history. Various party apparatchiks advised us to take all the executive and positions of responsibility, but we wanted to do it another way.

At South Hams, councillors from all parties are part of the executive or hold senior positions. There is no party whip for our group. Councillors are free to vote how they feel and take decisions that benefit their communities most, irrespective of any political party allegiance.

It is my belief that all voices should be heard. You might not aways get your way, but consensus rather than a single voice or opinion will lead to better governance. There is healthy debate. We have differing views about the Freeport. While some councillors (including Liberal Democrats) are opposed, the majority feel we should take a position of influence within the ‘tent.’ Those against, including members of the executive, will act as our Freeport conscience, continually monitoring and scrutinising any progress.

Can we say the same for Plymouth City Council? Will dissent be allowed? Can councillors with different views to the leadership still hold positions of responsibility. I hope they can. The more views expressed, listened to, and debated, the better and stronger the decisions in my view.