Bid to scrap role of Hartlepool's mayor - though supporters call for town to 'take pride' in ceremonial position
Councillors have called for the area to ‘take pride’ in the ceremonial mayor position amid calls to remove it.
Hartlepool Borough Council Constitution Committee discussed calls made at a recent full council meeting to remove the ceremonial mayor position and associated costs, and move to a council leader chair function.
Officers explained Hartlepool Borough Council moved to operate a committee system of governance with a leader and ceremonial mayor, who acts as chair of council, in May 2013 after a referendum in November 2012.
Legal advice given to the council is following a referendum, there must be a period of 10 years before looking to make changes again to the governance arrangements.
However council chief executive Gill Alexander noted although the role could not be formally removed, it could be carried out differently.
She said: “What you could review, you can have a de minimis approach to the First Citizen role.
“Or you can see it as an active way to act as an ambassador for the town and a way of raising money for good causes, in which case you would spend some money on transport and/or civic functions to enable that to happen and to raise the profile of it.
“The mayor does a great job going to schools and raising awareness to children and young people around the council and what it does, and that’s part of a civic education.
“You could choose to not do that and still carry the title.”
Council leader Coun Shane Moore noted it states in the constitution it is up to the ceremonial mayor what events they choose to attend, and they could attend and arrange minimal events.
He said: “It’s down to the chair whether they attend or not anyway. If whoever takes up the role decides they don’t want to do that, then they don’t do that.”
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said at the meeting the ceremonial mayor is an important role in the town and offers a chance to raise money for charity.
He said: “It’s about civic pride, what the council should be doing, it should be promoting the role.
“Rather than using the role politically to say the mayor does this, the mayor has a car, the mayor had a can of John Smiths the other day, instead of doing that and vilifying the role, what we need to do is we need to be proud of the role of mayor.
“It is a civic honour and it is a civic pride for people, and I think that’s something as a council we should be doing, and saying we are proud of the role and we should do everything we can to promote the role and to make sure it gets the respect the role deserves.”
Coun Marjorie James also addressed calls for the council to reduce spending on alcohol for civic events, and hit out at suggestions large amounts of money is spent and champagne is served at such events.
She said: “I’ve been on this council for 21 years out of the last 25 and I have never ever been offered a glass of champagne, never seen champagne being offered.
“It’s an absolute illusion we spend hundreds and thousands of pounds a year on alcohol for members, the mayor and our guests, it’s absolutely rubbish.
“You’re talking about a cost for where alcohol is involved of around £450-£500, to suggest that you cut that budget by 5%, that works out about £25 or less.”