a LONG-STANDING councillor is letting go of the purse strings of Tavistock Town Council with two major legacies he is proud of.

Cllr Harry Smith, chairman of the council budget and policy committee, is retiring as a councillor at the May local elections after 25 years ensuring the council does not spend more public money than its income.

This is a particularly difficult task in Tavistock, because, although it is at the bottom rung of local government — with the powers of a parish council, it has a suprisingly big £2m budget.

This is matched by proportionately big outgoings from the council’s many listed buildings in the town centre that bring in rental income, but are also increasingly costing more and more to maintain.

Cllr Smith said: ‘Effectively we’re a parish council, but the attraction for me to be chair of budget and policy was the challenges of having such a big budget and the challenge of balancing it. It’s a very interesting role, but its the right time to go.’

Cllr Smith will still play a part in community life as a chairman of Tavistock Almshouses Board and as a trustee of the Tavistock Sensory Garden, which he helped found.

He played a key role in preserving one of the town’s most prominent historic buildings — the Guildhall.

He said: ‘I am most proud of ensuring the Guildhall remains as a major part of what has become Tavistock’s heritage quarter. It was going to become accommodation by the owners Devon Historic Buildings Trust, so the income could help pay for mending the roof.

‘I helped progress the Guildhall Project which ensured it stayed a public building which now houses the interpretation centre and information centre for visitors and locals. It has taken many years to turn it from a decaying building to somewhere Tavistock can rightly be proud of.’

Cllr Smith said key to the transformation was generating funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund by ensuring the council committed to helping fund the project.

The creation of the sensory garden was largely down to his enthusiastic championing of the idea.

He said: ‘I’m also proud of the sensory garden. I was involved in the project from the very beginning and was extremely happy councillors accepted my argument there was a need for somewhere for people in need of sensory stimulation.’

Cllr Paul Ward, current town mayor said: ‘I have come to regard Harry as the ‘father of the house’. Hugely experienced in local government, Harry pays close attention to detail and is always the voice of reason and common sense.

‘Harry takes his role on the council seriously and conscientiously.

‘Twice town mayor, Harry has been a guardian of the public purse, always insisting that public money be spent wisely, transparently, and with absolute probity.’