COUNCILLORS have voted in favour of a public consultation on a controversial proposal to get rid of free deckchairs for older people in Weymouth.

At a meeting of the Policy Development Committee at the Council Offices in Weymouth tonight, councillors aired their concerns for the policy, with the meeting ending with an overwhelming vote in favour for a public consultation.

Nick Thornley, head of economy, leisure and tourism and Councillor Christine James addressed the committee to ask for their support for the policy.

Under the proposal, a 30 year benefit for residents over 60 to enjoy free deckchairs will be scrapped.

In a typical year, the value of deckchairs given out for free is about £5,000.

If approved, those over 60 will have to pay the going rate of £2 a day to hire a chair as of April 1.

Mr Thornley said: "We are not taking away the ability to sit for free on the esplanade, as there are lots of places people can sit for free.

"We are looking across the board of new ways of working. It's not about making a big financial saving it's about reassessing this as an old fashioned way of working.

"There are no clear health benefits."

Dorset Echo:

Mr Thornley said £2,000 of the money saved will go towards funding free or discounted swimming lessons for disabled Weymouth and Portland residents.

But many councillors disagree with the decision.

Councillor Mark Tewkesbury said: "It's going to deter people even more so from the seafront. What are we doing? We might as well put a sign on the M5 saying Weymouth is closed."

Other councillors raised concerns of what the residents would think of the council.

Councillor Paul Kimber spoke of concerns for people thinking of the council as 'tight' and 'mean' if the policy is passed.

He said: "I believe we should keep our good reputation."

Councillor Ryan Hope agreed, adding: "I can't see any saving, I just see a lot of upset and disgruntled people."

Councillor Ian Bruce, pictured, and who holds a free deckchair pass, said: "I think for £5,000 we are supposed to be saving, it's bad publicity for no reason."

But Cllr James urged the council to be more 'realistic'.

She said: "I think we are not going to be losing out. We need to be a bit more realistic in making a decision."

Councillor John Ellis supported Christine James, noting it was clearly an 'emotional issue' but adding that other seaside resorts in the country had dropped similar policies years ago without any public consultation.

The argument in favour of the policy states it is common for all promenade chairs to be occupied by non-fee paying customers meaning that no income is being generated but expenditure is being accrued in wages.

Chairman and Mayor of Weymouth and Portland Borough Richard Kosior put forward a motion to send the paper to a public consultation and revisit it to find out what the residents think.

Nick Thornley suggested the council defer their decision going to the management committee until the public consultation is completed.

What do you think? Email us here.