South Ribble's new mayor and mayoress are 'a mod and a rocker'

The longest-serving South Ribble councillor not to have been the borough’s mayor has finally been handed the role.

Thursday, 19th May 2022, 6:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 6:55 pm

Manchester-born David Howarth said that after living in the district for just over three decades, he hoped that he could now qualify as one of its “adopted sons”.

The veteran Liberal Democrat politician has represented Penwortham at all three levels of local government – as a town councillor for the past 27 years, a borough councillor for 21 of those and a Lancashire county council member since 2013.

Cllr Howarth told the meeting at which he was installed as mayor that his council roles had always given him “pride and pleasure” and pledged that he and his mayoress for the year ahead – his partner and fellow Lib Dem councillor, Angela Turner – would do their “upmost to serve our community, to be ambassadors for our borough and to have the interest of our residents at heart in everything we do”.

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Cllr David Howarth is the new mayor of South Ribble, while his mayoress Angela Turner has recently been installed as the mayor of Penwortham (images: South Ribble Borough Council and Penwortham Town Council)

He will be supporting three charities during his term of office – including St. Catherine’s Hospice, where his late wife was cared for before she passed away 21 years ago.

“Anyone, like myself, who has had the misfortune to experience the need for end-of-life palliative care, could not be in better and more caring hands than the staff at St. Catherine’s Hospice,” Cllr Howarth said.

Explaining his other charity choices – the mental health charity, Mind, and the National Autistic Society – he added:

“During lockdown, many of us either experienced mental health issues ourselves or came across somebody who did. Mental health, for years, has been seen as lower priority than physical wellbeing and – now more than ever – we need the services of a charity like Mind.

“Through the work of the National Austistc Society, we have come to learn so much about those who are wired a bit differently and have much more understanding of behaviour patterns and the needs of those with autism.”

Nominating Cllr Howarth for the ceremonial role, Lib Dem councillor Harold Hancock declared that the new mayoral partnership would be the first made up of a mod and a rocker – the two famed subcultures of the 1960s and early 70s.

“David is not only seen in his large collection of mod suits, but also has a collection of scooters. Meanwhile, Ange, similarly, has a collection of motorcycles, including a 1000CC superbike,” he said.

Cllr Howarth currently represents Penwortham West at County Hall and the Howick and Priory ward on South Ribble Borough Council – and, in non-mayoral times, is the leader of that authority‘s Liberal Democrat group, which has supported the minority Labour administration in a confidence and supply deal for the past three years.

Cllr Turner is also currently the mayor of Penwortham and will take over as Lib Dem group leader at South Ribble for the next 12 months.

Council leader Paul Foster said he could not be more pleased to see Cllr Howarth in the South Ribble mayoral role, adding that his colleague’s “number one priority is doing the best for the people of this borough”.

While the Conservative opposition group supported Cllr Howarth’s appointment, they declined to back the successful nomination of Labour’s Walton-le-Dale East ward councillor, Chris Lomax, as deputy mayor.

The Tory group had proposed an alternative to a new process for selecting the mayor – introduced earlier this year – which would have seen a Conservative councillor take the deputy position this year before becoming first citizen the next.

‘IT’S BEEN TOUGH BUT FUN’

The departing mayor of South Ribble said that serving in the role during the pandemic – and occupying the post for two years instead of the usual one – had made it “a very strange time” to hold the honour.

Jane Bell said that the lockdown and non-lockdown periods of her term of office meant that hers had been a mayoralty “of two halves – virtual and almost normal”.

She became famous amongst the borough’s children as an online storyteller – and at the meeting where she handed over the ceremonial chains to her successor, she paid tribute to council staff and her own family – including her mayoress daughter, Emma – for helping her carry out her duties.

“It has been hard work, it’s been fun, it has been interesting and, at times, it‘s been very lonely,” Cllr Bell said.

Council leader Paul Foster said that her “big smile and laugh” had kept people’s spirits up during Covid.