A familiar face may have returned to the mayoral position in Diss — but the council has adopted a brand-new governing structure which aims to be more efficient and beneficial to the town.
Mike Bardwell was sworn in as Diss Town Mayor at a meeting on Wednesday night, taking over from Julian Mason.
And Graham Minshull, also a district councillor for the town, is the council’s new leader. The deputy mayor role has been scrapped, although this is under review.
Mr Bardwell, who served as town mayor in 2011/12 and has been with the council since 2008, told the Diss Express: “It is an honour to be elected into a position like this within the town. I have lived in Diss almost all of my life, so its a great honour, and with it comes responsibility.”
The Diss resident, who has worked in the electricity supply industry for 30 years and was a retained firefighter in the town from 1984 to 2006, said the year ahead was set to be a busy one.
He said one of the biggest items on his agenda was the progression of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, which can help to guide future planning applications.
It is an honour to be elected into a position like this within the town. I have lived in Diss almost all of my life, so its a great honour, and with it comes responsibilityDiss Town Mayor Mike Bardwell
“We have got to do everything we can to try and get Diss in a better place that it is at the moment, infrastructure wise,” he continued. “That is what the development plan is all about, and it is extremely important.
“The new position of leader is a very important role, and I have every confidence in Graham. I think he will make an exceptional leader, he has been mayor before and he has district council experience.”
Diss Town Council says the new structure will aim to help deliver its four key priorities of infrastructure, community engagement, facilities and heritage and internal operations.
The strategy has been developed using the results from the DissFuture survey of local residents, and staff and councillor workshops.
Mr Minshull, who was elected into the position after defeating fellow nominee Mr Mason by eight votes to five at a ballot at the meeting, will lead on the Strategy Plan for the town, as well as being the main point of contact for clerk Deborah Sarson.
He said it would be a “smarter” way of working, bringing the authority “into the 21st Century.”
It would also bring continuity. While the role of mayor normally changes each year, the current plan is to have a leader re-elected annually.
“It is a great honour to be nominated as leader because the other councillors are showing confidence that I am the person to take the council’s policies and procedures into the future,” he said.
“We have got a situation where we have got to go out and talk to lots of different people, the district council, the county council, MPs, all sorts of people, and I have already got all of the contacts and know-how to do that. For me it was just logical for me to do that.
“I think it is a unique way to go forward with the changes.”
Mr Minshull added the completion of the Corn Hall renovations and the ongoing Heritage Triangle scheme was the biggest project in the town, and described the council as a “proactive” rather than a “reactive” body, identifying projects and problems at an early stage, which could in turn save money.