The role of Deputy Mayor of Calderdale has been reprieved as councillors failed to back a motion for its abolition from civic year 2020-21.
On a knife-edge vote abstentions from the current Mayor, Coun Marcus Thompson (Con, Skircoat) and a former Mayor, Coun Lisa Lambert (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), meant the ruling Labour group’s proposal to axe the role was defeated by one vote when Calderdale Council met at Halifax Town Hall last night (Wednesday).
There had been some confusion following the initial vote, with votes appearing to be tied at 23 each with Coun Thompson, holding the Mayor’s casting vote, which is traditionally used for the motion, wryly commenting he seemed to be approaching “a turkeys and Christmas situation.”
But a named vote was called for – and it became clear the role had been saved.
Full council’s approval was required for the Cabinet decision to scrap the role, which was a part of a package of cuts to the council’s democratic services which have been approved by Cabinet in order to save money.
Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said abolishing the role of Deputy would mean the council had to think more carefully about how councillors would carry out the role of Mayor.
But Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) spoke about the Deputy Mayor’s value to people and to Mayors themselves, providing a civic presence at events the Mayor could not attend, as his own Deputy had supported him in his Mayoral year.
Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said having the Mayor or Deputy attending events meant a tremendous amount to people and if the role went it would only be saving “peanuts”.
Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn), herself a Deputy Mayor twice and Mayor of Calderdale once, agreed – it was an apolitical way to serve people of the borough.
“For some people out there in our community a visit from the Mayor or Deputy is the most important thing that has happened to them in their lives
“I don’t think until you’ve done the role you realise what the impact is for people in the community,” she said.
She believed there could be savings made from the role but not by scrapping it.
Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder) said there was no doubt there had been some brilliant Deputy Mayors, but after losing £100 million in Government funding since 2010 savings had to be made.
“It’s a regrettable choice but an unavoidable choice,” he said.
Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said it gave her no pleasure to be putting forward the motion to scrap the role.
“I agree with much of what’s been said – but nothing going forward in terms of our budget is going to be exempt,” she said.
A lot of small savings added up to funding for a social worker or reducing cuts to youth services, said Coun Scullion.
Coun Chris Pearson (Con, Greetland and Stainland) suggested: “I understand the figures wanting to be saved are quite small. If each Cabinet member took a £2,000 cut in their allowance we could have that saving.”
Coun Swift said the value of the role was understood and scrapping it would mean challenges to the way the Mayorality operated.
“I have been on this council long enough to know situations where the Deputy Mayor has had to step in for the Mayor, so there are challenges, but on balance we think this is the right way forward,” he said.