Southwold’s new mayor outlines his priorities for year leading the town

Matthew Horwood is the new mayor of Southwold.

Matthew Horwood is the new mayor of Southwold. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Southwold's new mayor said he wants to focus on the town's young people and unsung heros during his year in the role.

Matthew Horwood is the new mayor of Southwold.

Matthew Horwood is the new mayor of Southwold. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Matthew Horwood was first elected to Southwold Town Council two years ago. Born and raised in Southwold, he is the former headteacher of Grove and Ringsfield Primary Schools, and retired in 2012.

And his profession influenced his choice of mayoral charity - with Mr Horwood deciding to raise money for The Loft Youth Centre, which meets at The Stella Peskett Millienium Hall.

He said: 'Because of being in education I really want to do things for the youth, and to get them involved with some of the fundraising I hope.

'But also to give the message that younger people are not all potential hooligans and perhaps they feel a bit marginalised in the town.'

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Mr Horwood, 65, who has been involved in numerous voluntary organisations, notably the Volunteer Help Centre, said he also wants to highlight the people who work behind the scenes.

He said: 'For me it's about local organisations and those who volunteer and that's going to be my emphasis for the year, not forgetting the businesses because they provide recognition for the town.

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'Without volunteers within the community things wouldn't necessarily happen - Scouts, Guides, Brownies, the lifeboat, sports clubs, the Volunteer Help Centre, all of these things rely on volunteers.'

And while Mr Horwood wants to improve life for Southwold's residents, he also recognises the importance of tourists.

'The town needs its visitors but it's getting that balance if at all possible between the people who live here all year round and those who come into enjoy it,' he said. 'I think it's important to work in partnership with everybody.

'Previous mayor Melanie Tucker was rightly keen on ensuring second home owners could get involved with the town if they wanted to. We really need to get local people working with each other.'

As chairman of the town council's finance committee, Mr Horwood oversaw the introduction of the precept, set for the first time in the 2016/17 financial year. The council had always set its precept at zero and managed its finances through property income.

But last year, the council cited falling income, the need for building repairs and money for big community issues as reasons for introducing the precept.

'Not everybody on the council was in favour and quite a lot of the town weren't, but everything is being divested down from central government to county, to district and some things come down to parish councils,' said Mr Horwood. 'We've got a lot of things on the go, such as parking and we've got properties to look after that are quite a financial commitment. And there were other people who said they didn't know why we hadn't introduced it before.'

And despite the uncertainty, Mr Horwood said he hopes his year as mayor can be a productive one.

'For me it's going to be a year of consolidation and seeing as many projects as possible come to fruition if not this year, in the next two,' he said. 'We've got to keep focus and keep moving it forward and make sure things get done.

'We're still in the dark about business rates but hopefully it will become clearer after the general election because we need to preserve the independent high street.'

Last year's mayor Melanie Tucker will serve as deputy mayor, and Mr Horwood said the support of his fellow councillors will be invaluable.

'I think the council is a very good one,' he said. 'It's got a good range of strengths and people who are committed to getting the best for the town. It's an honour and a privilege to be asked to be mayor and lead the council and I will do my very best to do a good job.

'And I'm sure with the support of the council and the clerks I will.'

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