Virtual votes will be cast when Budleigh Salterton Town Council elects its next chairman and deputy after the coronavirus lockdown’s halt on ceremonial duties prompted the mayor to step down.
The move to voting virtually was prompted by the coronavirus crisis halting all face-to-face council meetings for the foreseeable future, in favour of talks held over Zoom.
During Monday’s council Zoom meeting, June 29, it was announced Budleigh mayor Councillor Caz Sismore-Hunt had stepped down from the chairman role after serving an extended term, triggered when COVID-19 stopped the annual town meeting, and mayoral voting, taking place.
Cllr Sismore-Hunt said her decision to finish as town mayor after 13 months in the role had been prompted by health reasons, and the pandemic calling a halt on all ceremonial duties.
She said 2020 had been a ‘difficult’ year, with the closures of the town’s Age Concern, Budleigh fire station and Shandford care home.
Cllr Sismore-Hunt said: “Being in a lockdown situation and not seeing people, it’s been horrible.
“It’s possible I won’t be mayor again so it’s been so sad I haven’t been able to get involved with things as I used to.
“The chain has been in the box for months. It’s been very difficult, a really trying time.
“The one thing good about Covid, if you can say that, is as neighbours we help each other and we have become closer.”
She added: “I felt I had to stand down. I am fine – I am not ill – but the difficulty of Covid and the health situation, I decided to hand over to someone that was in a position to lead the council. The most important thing is leading the council.
“I did thirteen months instead of twelve. I was going to stay until the end of July.
“They asked me to stay for another three months when we couldn’t have an annual town meeting, which we have every year. We couldn’t have that so we couldn’t get to vote.
“But the time has come for me to stand down. A year is enough. They say a day is a long time in politics.”
Jo Vanstone, Budleigh Salterton Town Council clerk, said she had explored ways councillors could vote virtually to elect a new mayor and deputy, before implementing a plan.
The annual meeting with virtual voting for a new mayor and deputy, is set to take place on July 20.
Mrs Vanstone said: “After quite a bit of deliberation and consultation with other town clerks, I am happy that I have produced a satisfactory system for virtual voting and I am confident it will all work out on the night.”
Budleigh’s town mayor and deputy are traditionally elected in May at the town council’s annual meeting.
Councillor Caz Sismore-Hunt, outgoing Budleigh mayor, and Councillor Mike Hilliar, deputy mayor, were elected to their year-long positions on May 13, 2019.
When the pandemic hit, they agreed to stay in their roles for a further three months, until the end of July, while the town council found new ways to cast votes.
Cllr Mike Hilliar, deputy mayor, chaired Monday’s town council meeting after Cllr Sismore-Hunt stepped down as mayor.
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