New Dereham mayor Timothy Birt hopes to help town’s community heroes

PUBLISHED: 12:24 23 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:24 23 May 2014

New Dereham Mayor Tim Birt recieves his chains of office from outgoing Mayor Kate Millbank. Picture: Matthew Usher.

New Dereham Mayor Tim Birt recieves his chains of office from outgoing Mayor Kate Millbank. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

Dereham’s new mayor said he hopes to promote the work of his town’s unsung community heroes after taking over the civic role this evening.

Timothy Birt was handed the chains of office by outgoing mayor Kate Millbank at the annual town meeting on Tuesday evening.

He joined his fellow councillors in praising Mrs Millbank’s efforts during the last 12 months, both as a calm and “smiley” chairman and a willing ambassador for the town, both at home and on twinning visits to France and Germany.

The new mayor said his own focus for the coming year would be to raise the profile of people working within the community.

“We should be ‘bigging up’ the town and promoting some of the work that is going on,” he said.

“I’m thinking of some of the youth work and the work that goes on for people who are down on their luck, and I’m particularly keen to help the Foodbank if nothing else.

“Also, we have been very lucky to have Ken Hawkins as a footpath warden and I think that is indicative of what we are trying to do. He has been very quietly sorting out our footpaths, and he has been asked if he can put together five walks for the people to come along and explore them, not only to see what’s there but to highlight the problems.

“I went to a meeting at the fire station a few weeks ago where they were helping people back into employment. There is such good work going on that nobody sees. I would like to show how good Dereham is in terms of looking after its people, and yet we don’t always know what is happening.”

During the next 12 months, the new mayor said he expects to see progress on the long-awaited refurbishment of the Barwells Court toilets, due to start in 12 weeks, and the installation of state-of-the-art new play equipment for the Neatherd and Moorgate play areas.

As a Green party councillor, Mr Birt said he was also keen to explore ways to improve the town’s open spaces provision.

“It has long been an ambition of the council – but it has been higher on my agenda – to do some work in the south of the town in the Toftwood area in the same way as we have in the north at Neatherd Moor and on the land for the cemetery,” he said.

Outgoing mayor Mrs Millbank was applauded by councillors for her work to raise the profile of her chosen charity, Dereham Windmill.

The town council contributed £20,000 to the renovation of the landmark, and earlier this month a further £15,000 grant was awarded towards a proposed new community hall alongside it. Mrs Millbank’s charity Valentine’s Evening raised more than £1,100 for the ongoing appeal.

Linda Goreham was elected as Mr Birt’s deputy.

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